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Verification of the best-before date

According to the Food Information Regulation (FIC), a best-before date (BBD) must be indicated for foods that are marketed, and a use-by date must be indicated for perishable foods. Exceptions to this are listed in appendix X of the FIC.

The best-before date indicates the date until which the food retains at least its specific properties under compliance with the specified storage conditions. While products with an exceeded best-before date can still be consumed, products with a stated use-by date may no longer be consumed after this date.

 

Establishing the best-before and use-by dates

 

The determination of the best-before date or the use-by date is the responsibility of the person marketing the product. Various influencing factors, e.g. ingredients, manufacturing process, packaging, must be taken into account.  If empirical values or studies on comparable products are already available, these can be used as a basis for determining the best before date. However, it is not always possible to use existing data.  In such cases, it is recommended to carry out a storage test to determine the best before/use by date. This test is also suitable for checking an already determined best before date.

In a storage test, the considered food is stored in real time under real conditions until the possible/ determined best before date. At previously determined dates, a microbiological, sensory and chemical examination of the samples is carried out for possible changes during storage. This procedure is suitable for foods with a relatively short shelf life.

For foods with a long shelf life, real-time storage is not suitable. For these foods, the “reaction rate-temperature rule” (RGT rule) can be used in a storage experiment to shorten the storage time. When using the RGT rule, it is assumed that a 10 °C increase in storage temperature results in a doubling of the reaction rate. If, for example, a best-before date of 6 months is specified for a product at 20 °C, then storage at 30 °C can allow a statement to be made regarding the best-before date after just 3 months. In this case, the microbiological, sensory and chemical properties of the sample are also examined at different times during the storage period.

Influencing factors on the best-before date

There are many different factors that influence the best-before date of food. These are::

  • ingredients
  • manufacturing process (e.g. whether the product is frozen, sterilized, canned or dried).
  • pH value, aw value, etc.
  • packaging
  • storage conditions (temperature, humidity, light, etc.)

The microbiology and sensory experts at bilacon routinely perform best before date analyses. These tests can be carried out in special climatic chambers and analyzed in the laboratory.

The bilacon GmbH carries out these tests for all types of food.

Which foods don’t need a best-before date?

According to Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011, there are a few foods that don’t need to indicate a best-before date. These are::

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables (not subjected to any treatment, such as peeling).
  • Wine, fortified wine, sparkling wine, flavored wine, or the like
  • Alcoholic beverages (alcohol content over 10 percent by volume)
  • Baked goods, which are consumed within 24h
  • Vinegar
  • Table salt
  • Solid sugar
  • Sugar products consisting almost exclusively of sugars with flavorings and/or colorings
  • Chewing gum

 

 

If you have any questions about our service, please feel free to contact us. Our expert will be happy to help you.

 

Tobias Stapper
Head of Microbiology bilacon GmbH
tobias.stapper@tentamus.com
+49 30 206 038 370

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