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Are expiration dates still really useful?

1.3 billion tons of still edible food are thrown away every year in the world. For some food professionals, the solution may be to remove expiry dates.

In France alone, almost 10 million tonnes of food that could still be consumed without risk end up in the trash! This represents approximately 240 euros per French person and per year. In recent years, voices have been raised in the field of agrifood and point the finger at one of the main culprits: expiry dates. Already at the level of supermarkets, once the date has been reached or exceeded, the products can no longer be sold, and are therefore often thrown away. But even once stored in our closets, they would be responsible 20% of household food waste French

For Simon Foucault, public affairs manager of the anti-waste start-up Too Good To Go interviewed by our colleagues from Europe 1 People will tend to, as soon as they see a date, consider that if it has passed, the product cannot be consumed (…) A date that can be found on an ultra-fresh product, indeed after this one, the product must absolutely not be consumed (…) whereas a date that we will find on canned , on a packet of rice, on a packet of pasta, the product can be consumed without problems once the date has passed.”

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Decreasing use among distributors

Several large retailers have already made commitments to limit food waste in stores and at home. In August 2022 the English supermarket chain Waitrose announced for example the removal of all expiry dates from its fruits and vegetables packaged. According to a press release from the brand, it is estimated “that removing these dates could save the equivalent 7 million baskets of food.”

In France, several retail giants have also taken a stand against waste related to expiry dates. In 2020, 54 industry players including Carrefour, Auchan, Cora and Intermarché have signed the “Pact on use-by dates initiated by the start-up Too Good To Go. 10 commitments are proposed, including clarifying the difference between DLC and DDM for consumers and optimizing the value of products excluded from sales channels. Some brands are already going further. This is the case of Super U, which has decided to extend the expiry dates of certain products by two weeks.

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The difference in DLC and DDM is still very unknown

In addition to changing habits for large retailers, the Too Good Too Go charter places particular emphasis on raising consumer awareness of the meaning of the different types of expiry dates. And for good reason. More than half of French people cannot tell the difference between a DLC (use-by date) and a DDM (date of minimum durability), the famous one to be consumed preferably before… The two have nothing to do with each other.

DLC is most often applied to highly perishable foodstuffs. Meat, vegetables, fresh produce of all kinds. Beyond their expiry date, these products can represent a danger for consumption. In some cases, however, they can still be eaten a few days later, as long as the smell and appearance do not contraindicate it. This is the well-known case of yoghurts, which can be eaten several weeks after their use-by date. In the case of DDM, on the other hand, the date on the label does not at all indicate a danger in case of later consumption (provided the packaging has not been altered). Their objective is in fact to inform the consumer of the date until which these foodstuffs will keep all their physical, nutritional and optimal taste qualities. It is therefore these dates of minimum durability that could eventually be removed from our shelves to avoid waste.

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