Date marking give consumers the opportunity with a guide to shelf like of a food or beverage. It is based on quality attributes of the food or food safety and health deliberation. The date mark is an indication of the length of time a food shall keep well before it begins to lose its quality or deteriorate. In some cases, before the food becomes unsafe for eating or less nutritious.
The Australian and New Zealand food standards system is administered by legislation in New Zealand and the Commonwealth of Australia. It includes the Foods Standards Australia and New Zealand Act 1991 (FSANZ Act).
In Australia the responsibility for enforcing the Code rests with authorities in the states and territories and the Federal Department of Agriculture for imported food. In New Zealand, Ministry for Primary Industries is responsible.
There are two main types of date marking in Australia and New Zealand. These are ‘best before date’ (bbd) and ‘use by dates’. There is a further choice in relation to date marking of bread with less than seven days shelf life where ‘baked on’ or ‘baked for’ dates may use.
When specific storage conditions are required in order for a product to keep until its best before or use by date, suppliers should include instructions on the label, such, ‘this yoghurt should be kept refrigerated’
The food business that attach the date mark label is responsible to decide if a ‘use by’ or ‘best before’ date is required. This would depend on if these foods are consumed within a certain time because of health and safety reasons.
Most foods use a ‘best before’ date which means one can still consume foods for a little while after the specified date. They should be safe for consuming; however, it may have lost certain qualities.
Foods with a shelf life of two years or longer, do not need to be labelled with a best before date. Examples of these food may be canned foods. This is because often it is difficult to give the consumer an accurate guide as to how long these foods will keep. They may retain their quality for many years and are likely to be consumed well before they spoil.
Best before date tells you that the food is no longer in its perfect condition from that particular date. The best before indicates that the food may just lose its freshness, taste, aroma or nutrients. It does not whatsoever mean that the food is no longer safe to eat. Best before date is basically a quality indicator.
Use by dates are about food safety. Foods can be eaten can be eaten until the use by date but not after. A date is marked on a perishable foodstuff, indicating the recommended date by which it should be used or consumed. Foods with a best before date can legally be sold after that date provided the food is fit for human consumption.
Use by dates are seen on perishable food that may go off quickly. These food items include ready to eat salads, meat and meat products and dairy foods. The food may be unsafe to eat or drink, even if it has been stored correctly and looks and smells fine. Foods that must be eaten by a certain time for health and food safety reasons must be marked with a use by date. Such foods must not be legally sold after that date because it poses a health and safety risk.
Almost half of all food waste happens at home because of the confusion around best-before dates. Majority of the consumers ‘assume’ best before date passed means product has gone bad. This is not the case. Hence, more than half of all food waste is because if ignorance. It is also important to remember that the dates only apply to unopened items.