United States Mission to the European Union
Foreign Agricultural Service
United States Department Of Agriculture
Last modified: January 12, 2017

Shelf life


Annex X to the EU’s “Food Information to Consumers (FIC)” regulation 1169/2011 sets out rules for the indication of the date of minimum durability, use-by date and date of freezing.

Minimum Durability

The date of minimum durability means the date until which the food retains its specific properties when properly stored.  The date must be preceded by the words:

  •  “best before” when the date includes an indication of the day
  •  “best before end” in other cases

The date must be indicated in the following order: day, month and possibly year.  For foods that will not keep longer than 3 months, an indication of the day and the month is sufficient.  For foods that will keep more than 3 months but less than 18 months, an indication of the month and year is sufficient.  For feeds that will keep longer than 18 months, an indication of the year is sufficient.  Annex X (1.d) lists all the products that do not require an indication of the date of minimum durability.

Use-by Date

In the case of foods which, from a microbiological point of view, are highly perishable, the date of minimum durability must be replaced by the “use-by” date.  After the “use-by date” a food is deemed to be unsafe.  The date must consist of the day, the month and possibly the year, preceded by the words “use-by”.  The use-by date must also be indicated on individual pre-packed portions.

Date of Freezing

On frozen products, the date of freezing must be indicated (day/month/year) preceded by the words “Frozen on”.

Guidance Document(s)

Detailed information can be found in the “Guidance on the application of date labels to food” published by the U.K.’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).