With food waste on the rise, there are reports that Europe is beginning to re-think the appropriateness of the ‘Best Before’ label, which as consumers would know, is currently used for some goods in Australia [Active & Intelligent Packaging Industry Association Newsletter, 06-09-2016].

‘With pressure mounting on the European Commission to reinstate food waste programs in its Circular Economy strategy a recent report from Berlin’s Humboldt University claims that confusion surrounding Best Before Labels are a major contributor to the problem, says a recent article in Food Navigator.’

The article goes on to say, ‘The German agricultural minister has already said he would like to see the end of Best Before dates and the government has marked €10 million to develop ‘smarter’ packaging.’ Some other members of the EU are also in favour of dropping this label and current estimates say that 20% of food produced in the EU is wasted, worth €143billion.’

It would not be unreasonable to think that Australia too would have a great deal of waste with food that is discarded after its Best Before date even though it might still be safe and suitable for consumption - even if its taste has deteriorated.  However, if the EU does abandon the Best Before label, manufacturers in Australia would have to comply if they export to the EU.   It would not be unreasonable to ask whether our regulator (Food Standards Australia New Zealand) would be approached by business or perhaps even by the government itself if it has an interest in alleviating food wastage.

This is not an issue yet, but is some advance notice as to what could happen in the future.

Perhaps ‘smart’ packaging may remove the necessity for such a label but it is not as yet well developed. However it is something for consumers to think about.

Elaine Attwood AM

Member Consumers SA Executive 

AuthorRay Dennis