Some EU nations say 'best before' food labelling results in food wastage

BRUSSELS (AFP) - Several European Union countries on Monday pressed to change 'best before' food labelling, blamed for millions of tons of food being thrown away when getting a square meal is a daily struggle for many.

EU agriculture ministers discussed a document which argued that labels recommending consumption before a specific date were inappropriate for foodstuffs such as rice, pasta or coffee. These products could be kept for longer without any harm being done, it said, with the 'best before' date system "causing unnecessary food waste."

"Reducing food losses and food waste ... is a high priority for many European countries," the document said, estimating annual losses at 89 million tonnes in Europe.

"This labelling has nothing to do with health, it's more to do with quality, which I think consumers can judge for themselves," Dutch Agriculture Minister Sharon Dijksma said. "We really need to do more," he said, highlighting wider concerns about food security at a time of fast global population growth.

The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, is preparing a report for June on a sustainable food system due to take into account growing worries about food security.

As well as the Netherlands, countries including Austria, Germany, Denmark, Luxembourg and Sweden all support changes to at least minimise the waste problem while preserving food safety standards.

According to the World Bank, about 35 per cent of food ends up being thrown away, most of it junked by consumers in the developed countries.