Saturday 17 September 2011

Past Its Sell-By Date

Sometimes the utter tedium of blogging about the EU is overwhelming it makes one want to stop, especially as the same stuff comes up relentlessly. One can only admire Richard North's stamina to keep going year after year.

One such subject reared its ugly heard earlier this week, which I was alerted to by Going Fast, Getting Nowhere:
There's a whole lot of hoo-hah going on at the moment about the supposedly confusing sell-by, display-by, best before and use-by dates.
Apparently a Minister (Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman) wants to end sell-by dates on food:

"We want to end the food labelling confusion and make it clear once and for all when food is good and safe to eat," she said.

A rehash of a non-story - here's the same story from last year. In reality what we have here is another media storm in a tea cup, a day of headlines and a government that actually hasn't done anything - it cannot force companies to stop using sell-by dates. The clue in the BBC report is here:

Compliance with the new guidance is not required by law, although Defra says businesses are legally bound to label food with either a use-by or best-before date.

But don't expect the BBC to tell you how we are legally bound though, despite their report linking to the relevant document which makes it clear as early as page 4:

These guidance notes should be read in conjunction with the legislation itself (Directive 2000/13/EC)...

and page 5

This guidance does not over ride specific European Union or national provisions that require the use of a particular date mark for specific foodstuffs. For example, the date marking of eggs is controlled by the EU's Egg Marketing Standards Regulation (which require marking with a ‘best before’ date), and pre-packed fresh poultry meat is required to bear a ‘use by’ date under the terms of the EU's Regulations on marketing for poultry.

and page 6

The key piece of EU legislation for date marking of food is Directive 2000/13/EC of the European Parliament and the Council on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the labelling, presentation and advertising of foodstuffs (“the Directive”). The Directive is implemented in Great Britain by the Food Labelling Regulations 1996
As Chilled Food Association Director Kaarin Goodburn puts it:
"Only the EU can legislate on labelling and this guidance changes nothing."
The problem it's not that people are too stupid to read food labels but that they are too stupid to realise who our real government is.


  1. "The problem it's not that people are too stupid to read food labels but that they are too stupid to realise who our real government is."

    Err, we have a choice of governments? As we don't have a government the choice is between the EU and what?

  2. @WfW No we don't have a choice as you say, just that many wrongly assume or pretend it doesn't reside in Brussels