Food labelling - A wealth of information for consumers
Ensuring food safety is a shared responsibility between governments, producers, industry and consumers. Food labelling is one way in which consumers can get knowledge about the food they consider buying. Correctly following the information provided on food labels (such as expiry dates, handling instructions and allergy warnings) can help consumers prevent unnecessary food-borne illness and allergic reactions. Expiry dates
In the European Union (EU), an intricate set of legislation and standards has been developed and implemented to ensure safety throughout the entire food chain. Perishable foods, judged from a microbiological point of view (such as cooked meat products, prepared foods and salads), display a 'use by' date on the package and should not be eaten after this date, as this could present a health risk. In addition, many foods display a ‘best before’ date, which gives an indication of the “minimum durability”, or the period during which the food retains its specific properties when properly stored. In other words, a product whose “best before” date has expired may still be safe to eat, but the manufacturer no longer guarantees the sensory properties of the product (e.g. taste, smell, appearance etc). In a recent nationally representative survey from the UK, only half (49%) of the over 3000 respondents correctly identified the ‘use by’ date as the best measure of safety and 47% said they would never eat cooked meat beyond its 'use by' date.1 Most respondents were found to be using expiry dates as a point of reference and relying on their own judgement to decide if the food was safe to eat by smelling it (74%) or by just looking at the food (65%). In a nationally representative study from Ireland (796 respondents), only 39% of people regularly referred to the food label of a product, and of these, only half referred to the best before/use by dates on a food label.2 Other studies in the EU have...
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