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Date Labelling of Pre-Packed Goods


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#1 Andy_Yellows

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Posted 23 March 2017 - 08:25 AM

Hi all,

 

I have a question about date labelling on packed goods such as strawberries, raspberries and leaves. A customer phoned us the other day asking why his bag of rocket leaves didn't have any date labelling on it. Sales passed his query on to me and I didn't really know what to tell them. Having read the guidance on labelling it sounds like there should have been a durability label on the bag with it being a 'pre-packed' product but it made me realise we have loads of products in our coldstore in punnets and bags (cherry tomatoes, strawberries, leaves, blackberries etc.) with no dates of any description.

 

Can anybody explain why there are so many products in bags and punnets that don't have date labels on them and if I should start demanding this is the case?

 

Many thanks,

 

Andy


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#2 GMO

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Posted 23 March 2017 - 08:53 AM

It is something which drives me bonkers in Aldi and Lidl.  I don't work in produce and never have but from a consumer's point of view, you like to have some kind of guideline on how long the produce would last.  I would also argue that with the rocket (which is likely to be washed I'm guessing?)  As it approaches the end of life, the leaves will become more limp and there is already a known salmonella risk from damaged leaves in bagged salads in any case.  Whether or not that grows to significant levels is going to be down to shelf life.

 

http://www.telegraph...d-salad-leaves/

 

As for other produce?  Honestly when I shop in supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl where there are minimal shelf lives on produce, 1 time in 3 I will find another, high risk, food item on the shelf which is out of date.  Last time I went it was cream.  I am one of "those people" who always take it to a member of staff to throw out (better than if I contacted the EHO as it's an offence).  But if the staff aren't noticing the food with use by dates is out of date, will they be carefully checking the lot codes on the produce?  From the limp evidence in my local store, I would wager they aren't.

 

So should you legally?  On the bagged salad from a food safety point of view I'd say yes.  From a legality point of view in terms of labelling, I've looked it up and it's debatable for the rocket but clearer for things like punnets of berries.

 

This is the guidance for the legislation:

 

https://www.gov.uk/g...on-to-consumers

 

And this is the pertinent "bit":

 

Showing the ‘best before’ or ‘use by’ date

You must usually show either a ‘best before’ or a ‘use by’ date on the packaging or label of pre-packed food products.

Only show a ‘use by’ date where there is a safety issue with eating the food after this date. It’s a criminal offence to sell food that’s past its ‘use by’ date.

Read further guidance on date marking

You don’t need to show a ‘best before’ or ‘use by’ date, but you must include a lot number on:

  • fresh fruit and vegetables which haven’t been peeled, cut or similarly treated (except for sprouting seeds and similar products, like legume sprouts)  My comments here - if your rocket is washed, then I would argue it's been "treated" but perhaps check with your legal department.
  • wines, liqueur wines, sparkling wines, aromatised wines and similar products made from fruit other than grapes
  • drinks made from fermented grapes or grape musts
  • drinks containing 10% or more alcohol by volume
  • baked or pastry goods which are normally consumed within 24 hours of being made
  • vinegar
  • cooking salt
  • solid sugar
  • confectionery made almost solely of flavoured or coloured sugars
  • chewing gums and similar chewing products


#3 Andy_Yellows

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Posted 23 March 2017 - 10:45 AM

Hi GMO and thank you for your input. I had read the document you linked in your comment and found another passage that I think answers the question which I will copy and paste below:

Selling food products to other businesses

You must pass on certain information about products if you are an FBO selling food products to other businesses, not to the final consumer. At the end of the supply chain, whoever is selling a food product to the final consumer must have all the information they need to provide.

Information you must provide

If the food will be sold non pre-packed to the final consumer, you must provide all the information required for non pre-packed foods.

This passage is relevant to us as we sell to caterers who will split the bagged leaves down to put on their dishes as garnishes/salads for the final consumer. Would you argue this enables us to sell these products without date labels?

 

Many thanks,

Andy


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#4 GMO

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Posted 23 March 2017 - 11:42 AM

Ah business to business sale may be different.  I would think you need to provide them with either a date code on the product or means whereby they can work out how long they can safely use the ingredient.  From auditing caterers though, I've found most assume that they have 2 days on arrival to use produce and stick labels on to that effect.  I don't know where this comes from or whether it's just what the supplier says?  Probably leads to quite a bit of unnecessary waste though.

 

From the letter of the law though, if you are providing a lot code to your customer and they know what that means then I think you're legally fine.  If your customer wants more (and why not?)  Then I guess there's nothing stopping you providing more.  Some customers might like the "grey area" though.  If you put a use by on it, then the caterer will be breaking the law to use it afterwards.  Even a BBD could cause problems with an EHO.  It would be interesting what you decide.  Sorry I can't be more help.



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#5 Andy_Yellows

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Posted 23 March 2017 - 12:09 PM

We do attach tractability batch codes and the packaging comes with allergen info present when we buy it in so in that respect I feel we are following the law to the letter. I'd imagine this is the same for soft fruits in punnets etc. I think I will advise the customer of our legal position and that they are probably best off not tying themselves in to putting their own durability labels on the products when really the product is probably good to eat until it begins to deteriorate. I guess we can always provide further info if they insist though.

 

Regards,

 

Andy


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#6 Hobgoblin

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Posted 28 March 2017 - 08:27 PM

Hi Andy,

 

Annex X of EC Reg 1169/2011 specifically exempts the following from a durability date "fresh fruit and vegetables, including potatoes, which have not been peeled, cut or similarly treated; this derogation shall not apply to sprouting seeds and similar products such as legume sprouts,"

 

Although not legally required many supermarkets do provide a durability date however on these items.

 

Regarding business to business you need to supply what your customer is legally obliged to provide.  So for example if supplying a caterer the only information that they are legally obliged to provide under the Food Information Regs 2014 is allergens.  Therefore for fresh fruit and vegetables you don't need to provide them with a durability date.  It's perfectly acceptable for a caterer to make a judgement of fitness of fruit and veg based on its appearance.  Any issues are likely to be as a result of contamination prior to packing and the shelflife won't act as much of a control. Pathogens such as E.coli O157 and Salmonella should not be present in the first place.



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#7 Andy_Yellows

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Posted 29 March 2017 - 06:43 AM

Hi Hobgoblin, this is a really helpful comment. From what you've said I'm assuming that for loose Rocket leaves, the main reason I asked the above question to begin with, should have a durability label attached even if they're being sold to a caterer, as this is not a fruit or vegetable?

 

I just find it odd that no supplier we've ever used has provided date labels on their Rocketand we've used 4 or 5 different Rocket suppliers during my time at this Company. Made me think this was ok.

 

Andy


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#8 Hobgoblin

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Posted 30 March 2017 - 02:13 PM

Hi Andy,

 

I think that rocket leaf would be classed as a salad vegetable and therefore would not legally require a durability date.  If a lettuce is cut into loose leaves then it would require a durability date.  The problem with rocket is that when you harvest it it is a loose leaf.  So it could be argued either way as to whether it is cut or not.

 

Part of the problem is that consumers seem to expect a durability date on everything in a packet and may not understand the exemptions for fruit and veg.

 

If you decide to put a date on it then you need to decide between a 'use by' or 'best before'.  Article 24 of EC reg 1169/2011 says   "In the case of foods which, from a microbiological point of view, are highly perishable and are therefore likely after a short period to constitute an immediate danger to human health, the date of minimum durability shall be replaced by the ‘use by’ date. After the ‘use by’ date a food shall be deemed to be unsafe in accordance with Article 14(2) to (5) of Regulation (EC) No 178/2002."  Personally, I don't like the wording of this article as it implies that if something is highly perishable it will therefore constitute an immediate danger to health.  Some foods such as some salad leaves may be highly perishable but don't pose an immediate danger.  There have been a number of outbreaks in recent years associated with salad leaves but I haven't seen anything to suggest that it was anything to do with durability dates.  It was more that that the leaves were contaminated in the first place.  Arguably in these areas more needs to be done at the primary producer stage.  Salmonella & E.coli O157 are not permitted in a ready to eat food and they don't appear from nowhere over time.

If you decide to place a 'use by' date on it then the product will be considered unsafe after this date irrespective of what the product looks like etc.  The competent authority does not have to test the product but only confirm that it has a 'use by' and that date has expired for it to be considered unsafe.

Personally, I'd suggest a 'best before' date is more appropriate for this type of product.  This date is then more about quality than safety. 

Dates do have the advantage of course of aiding stock control and if you have a durability date you also don't need a lot code.  However, you should also be able to justify what date you put on the product.

 

My opinion is that a date is not legally required but if your local TSO/EH disagrees then they would likely deal with this matter informally.  Worst case scenario they would serve a notice requiring the products to be dated which if you disagreed with you can go to a tribunal. 






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