It seems incredible that at this point we still walk like this. I mean that of not having things clear about the indications that foods normally carry about their date of minimum duration, expiration date and others. I say this because a few days ago the Spanish Confederation of Organizations of Housewives, Consumers and Users (CEACCU) published a report on these issues in which the general knowledge on the subject did not come out well at all . To give you an idea, I mention only two of its many interesting conclusions:
- One in three consumers says to use “if not many days have passed” foods that have exceeded the expiration date .
- 39% do not know exactly the meaning or implications of the expiration date
That is why, I ask myself, if with such a basic and simple a priori subject we do not have everything clear that the circumstances deserve … what will be of other objectively more complicated issues also circumscribed to the framework of the purchase, sale and use of food? (nutritional information, nutrient declarations, health claims, origin of the food, list of ingredients …)
That is why I have proposed to start one of my adorable tickets sagas directed to the best knowledge of these issues, especially also for the next application of the European Regulation 1169/2011 On the food information provided to the consumer . And I say well application (December 13, 2014) because it is already in force although we are currently enjoying (already ending) a grace period since that entry into force.
More than one should try clothes (large or small food industry, catering establishments of any kind, food distribution stores, etc.) because this regulation comes with many surprises . All of them in order to protect and improve that information obtained by the last link in the chain, consumers, and I fear that is the weakest. We will also see with what success. We will therefore go through one by one, all of them or at least a good part, because I already say that they have their substance. So let’s go with the theme of dates.
What it implies, how it should be expressed and what food should include a date of minimum duration (preferred consumption)
As indicated in the aforementioned Regulation, the date of minimum duration or any other expression of similar meaning (for example “preferably consume before …”) is the date until which the food is considered to retain its specific properties when stored correctly. . This means that a food could be consumed once the preferential consumption date has been passed without risking health . Now, that does not mean that its taste, appearance, texture, etc. are altered and are the most suitable to be ingested.
The specific date will consist of the clear indication according to this order: day, month and, possibly, year with the following format depending on the type of food that is considered. Thus, those foods:
- Whose duration is less than three months , it will suffice to indicate the day and the month,
- Whose duration is greater than three months , but without exceeding eighteen months, it will suffice to indicate the month and the year,
- Whose duration is greater than eighteen months , it will suffice to indicate the year.
There will also be some foods that will be exempt from the obligation to use or to offer the consumer a date of preferential consumption , among them and by way of example: fresh fruits and vegetables, including potatoes, that have not been peeled, cut or subjected to any other similar treatment […]; wines, liqueur wines, sparkling wines, flavored wines and similar products obtained from fruits other than grapes […], beverages with a graduation of 10% or more in alcohol volume; bakery or confectionery products which, by their nature, are normally consumed within twenty-four hours after their manufacture; the vinegars; the kitchen salt; the sugars in solid state; confectionery products consisting almost exclusively of flavored or colored sugars; chewing gums and similar chewing products.
What it implies, how it should be expressed and what food should include an expiration date
On the other hand, in the case of microbiologically very perishable foods and that therefore may pose an immediate danger to human health after a short period of time, the expression “expiration date” will be used. Thus, and according to the Regulation, after the “expiration date” has passed, the food will not be considered safe . That is to say, and unlike the date of preferential consumption, after the expiration date the food could cause some damage to health and should not be consumed in any case .
At the same time the expiration date will be completed with a description of the conservation conditions that will have to be respected in each product.
Date of first freezing
This is one of the novelties included in Regulation 1169/2011 , the obligation for the manufacturer to include the date of freezing or first freezing (when products are submitted to more than one), especially in the case of frozen meats, prepared frozen meat and frozen non-processed fishery products. This date, clarifies the norm, it can not be codified, that is, it must make the meaning clear to the consumer.