Shelf life and use-by dates: definitions
The use-by date, a mandatory requirement
The acronym DLC literally means : Best Before Date. Food products whose expiration date is preceded by this wording are said to be “at risk” for health if consumed after the date set by the distributor. In other words, it’s highly likely that food with an expired best-before date will smell, look and taste like something you don’t want to eat.
⚠️ Attention! Do not freeze products that are close to or beyond their sell-by date.
The best-before date applies mainly to fresh produce, such as charcuterie, meat, fish, dairy products and prepared meals in the delicatessen department. The use-by date of these foods is considered imperative, meaning that the product must not be sold or consumed after this date. Once this date has passed, these highly perishable products develop bacteria that can harm consumer health.
As for distributors, they must withdraw from sale all foodstuffs that have passed their sell-by date. These products are considered unfit for consumption. To avoid food waste, retailers are introducing special short-date promotions, giving consumers considerable discounts on fast-food items. This method reduces food wastage and allows unsold quantities to be thrown away.
In France, retailers also have the option of making donations to associations helping people in need of food aid. However, this approach is highly regulated.
For example, with Restos du Coeur, unsold food products can be donated as long as the best-before date is not exceeded, leaving sufficient time for distribution (best-before date greater than 48 hours, to be determined on a case-by-case basis for shorter dates on certain products). (Source: Restos du Coeur).
The best-before date for each foodstuff is set by experts and professionals commissioned to test the shelf life of products. The best-before date is indicated in Day/Month format. The Direction Générale de la Concurrence, de la Consommation et de la Répression des Fraudes (DGCCRF) is responsible for ensuring compliance with regulations concerning foodstuffs placed on the French market (Source: Service Public).
👉 Good to know: the acronym DLC is sometimes replaced by the sign DLV, which stands for “Date Limite de Vente”.
The DLUO: the use-by date, for information purposes.
The acronym DLUO stands for “Date Limite d’Utilisation Optimale”, meaning “Best Before Date” on food packaging. This acronym is also replaced by the letters DMM: Date de Durabilité Minimale. The foodstuffs concerned by the DLUO are mainly grocery products, preserves and frozen foods.
The best-before date informs and advises consumers, because once it has expired, the product can still be consumed. This date is valid only if the food has not been opened, deteriorated or stored in premises or at temperatures unfavorable to preservation.
The DMM or DLUO indicates to households that the merchandise can be consumed even after this date, and the notion “best before” is generally indicated on the packaging. Indeed, the appearance, taste or nutritional qualities may deteriorate once the date has passed, but without any danger to health.
👉 Unlike a best-before date, when the expiry date has passed, food can still be sold, usually at reduced prices.
Some food products are not concerned by best-before dates, and therefore do not carry them. For example, sugar, salt and vinegar. Fruits and vegetables are destined to be eaten and sold quickly, so they don’t have an expiration date.
⚠️ Attention! Once the packaging has been opened, you can no longer rely on the date printed on it. In all cases, rely on the look, texture, color and smell of a product before ingesting it. When in doubt, abstain!
All this information seems logical once you’ve learned it, but for many people, it’s not so clear-cut! To stay informed and keep up to date with all the latest anti-gaspi news, it’s a good idea to read the various resources on the subject, why not do your own research, and educate those around you to raise as many people’s awareness as possible. Using dedicated apps, or taking part in special events such as International Anti-Gaspi Day, are also simple actions that make sense.
International Anti-Waste Day: a date not to be missed under any circumstances
📆 A date to mark in your diary: September 29, 2022.
This initiative was launched by the United Nations in 2020, and focuses on the global problem of food loss and waste. It’s an opportunity to learn more about the subject, to join a community of people sensitive to anti-waste, and to discover the innovations that can help combat this scourge, then share them with as many people as possible.
If you’d like to take part in International Anti-Waste Day, you can join in virtually. You’ll discover the views, questions and actions of experts from the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations) and UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme).
📌 September 29, from 4:00 pm to 7:30 pm (UTC+2): to take part in the event, click here!
We can all do our bit to combat food waste by adopting simple gestures and new consumer habits.