To fight against food waste and the millions of tons of food lost each year in France, one of the solutions would be to remove the consumption deadlines. But is this really possible?
150kg. This is the amount of consumable food wasted, on average, by a French person each year, according to the Agency for the Environment and Energy Management (Ademe). France is committed to halving food waste by 2025, with environmental, economic, ethical and social goals. This could involve the end of the use-by dates on certain products, intended to ensure the health of consumers and known to be the main reason for food waste.
The British supermarket chain Waitrose announced at the beginning of the month to withdraw the recommended consumption dates on nearly 500 products from September, with the aim of encouraging households to preserve their food to reduce food waste. The sign will remove the mentions “best before” (best before) with the date which indicates until when the product remains consumable without danger. As relayed by the Express, Waitrose indicated in a press release “that the deletion of these dates could save the equivalent of 7 million baskets of food”.
Two very distinct mentions
On the packaging of the products there are two small mentions which can be difficult to differentiate: “to consume until…” and “to consume preferably before…”. The first formula means that there is a health risk if the product is consumed beyond the date indicated, while the second informs of a possible alteration in taste and/or appearance once the date has passed. According to a survey by the European Commission, more than half of French people do not make the difference between these two dates, which would make them responsible for 20% of food waste in homes.
While the use-by dates have already disappeared from packaged fruits and vegetables, would it be possible to do the same for other products? Certain brands such as Carrefour or Système U have already decided in the past to extend the deadlines for certain food products, which is not an offense in France. Regarding a total deletion of these dates, the situation is different.
The European regulation limits the member countries
Unlike the United Kingdom, which can freely remove these dates, France is limited by the European regulation of 2011 which obliges all Member States to put expiry dates on foodstuffs, with the exception of certain products such as sugar or the vinegar. To achieve the total elimination of these DLCs and to save millions of still consumable products from dumpsters, it would therefore be necessary to change European regulations.
A request already made by Bertrand Swiderski, sustainable development director of the Carrefour group quoted by Le Parisien: “I have already written to the European Commission to amend the existing legislation and remove the deadline on risk-free products, such as chickpeas, dried beans, rice… The discussions will resume at the start of the school year, but the regulations will have to be given time to evolve”.
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