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EU proposals could remove coffee best before dates

Expiry dates on coffee could be a thing of the past under plans by the European Union (EU) to remove 'best before' dates from long-life products. Under the proposals, produce such as coffee, jam, dry pasta, pickles and rice would no longer have to include information about expiry on packaging. The decision is part of efforts by the EU to reduce waste by preventing an estimated 15 million tonnes of food being thrown out each year, according to the Daily Telegraph. Europe currently has an annual food waste mountain of an estimated 100 million tonnes. Under current regulations, nearly all foodstuffs must carry a 'best before' label, but European commissioners argue that large quantities of products are binned as a result of people wrongly believing they are no longer edible. Proposals are due to be tabled by officials in June calling for changes to legislation to tackle food waste, with Dutch agriculture minister Sharon Dijksma leading the campaign and claiming that around 15 per cent of produce thrown out is because of expiry dates. There are a very small number of exceptions to the 'best before' date rules, including vinegar, which was only recently added to the list, despite being a preservative. Products can feature both 'best before' and 'use by' dates, with the latter linked to health and safety. Ms Dijksma addressed a meeting of ministers and officials stating that labels on long-life items such as coffee "have nothing to do with safety but with quality. We think citizens can make sure themselves if, for instance, rice is still usable." A number of EU countries have signed a letter to the agriculture and fisheries council supporting the proposals and the UK is watching progress closely, although it has yet to back the plans. "Consumers often throw food away unnecessarily because of confusion about the meaning of the 'best before' date. Products usually remain edible beyond this date, but are nonetheless thrown away," they stated. Although experts argue that fresh coffee should be drunk as close to the time that it was ground as possible, there are a number of factors that affect shelf life, including preparation method and storage.