NEW DELHI: Packaged food companies may soon have to carry an ‘expiry/ use by date’ along with the ‘best before date’ label on all products and offer discounts after the ‘best before date’. The proposal is part of the labelling regulation and good food retail practices under consideration of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, official sources said.
The idea is to empower consumers to make an informed decision and enable them to bargain for products that have crossed their ‘best before date’ but are still safe to consume. Besides, it is also expected to help reduce wastage of food.
In the absence of a policy to tackle the shelf life, retailers often return the stock to companies after they cross the ‘best before date’. Companies are also left with no choice but to destroy such stocks as regulations do not allow their sale.
“Most of such products are still good to eat and safely edible for a reasonably limited period of time. Destroying such stocks leads to sheer wastage of food, while a lot of it is nutritional,” an official said.
On the other hand, retailers try to push products through various schemes just around the ‘best before date’. In such a scenario, the consumer must be aware of what he is buying and for how long it can be used. The consumer must also be able to bargain for such products, the official said.
“Best before” label is the date that indicates the end of the period in which the condition of the food item, under storage, will remain as stated. During this period, the food product is fully marketable and retains all those specific qualities which it is understood to have or which have been claimed on the label.
“Expiry/ Use by date” label indicates the estimated end of the stated storage period after which the food item will probably not have the quality and safety attributes normally expected by the consumers and the food shall not be sold.
At present ‘use by date’ is seen only in a few products like breads, packaged dairy products. India is one of the top five markets for packaged food in the world, and the second largest in Asia, with a sales volume of 34 million tonnes. The total sales of packaged food is estimated to increase by nearly 7% annually within the next five years.