French cheese ‘fine to eat after best before date’

The makers of popular French soft cheese La Vache Qui Rit (The Laughing Cow) are aiming to tackle the problem of food waste by reminding consumers that their product may be fine to eat even after its ‘best before date’ has passed.

THE Bel group, which makes the spread (as well as its competitor spread brand, Kiri, and famous cheese Babybel), has added reminders to its packaging, with a three-step process for consumers to check if the cheese is still OK to eat, even if the ‘best before date’ has gone.

It says: “The Vache Qui Rit is a product with a best before date (‘date de durabilite minimale’ in French). This means that once this date has passed, the product may lose flavour quality, without presenting any risk for you.

“If the cheese has always been kept in the refrigerator, and the packaging is not damaged, it can still be eaten after this date.”

It then advises: “1. Observe, 2. Smell, 3. Taste,” and reminds people to “Trust yourself!”

If the cheese looks fine, smells fine, and tastes fine – and has been unopened or only recently opened, and has been kept in the fridge since purchase – then it is safe to eat, even if its best before date has passed. It may not taste as fresh as the day it was bought, but eating it will pose no health risk.

The advice is part of a campaign to reduce food waste, in association with the international app Too Good To Go. The app creators “rescue delicious food from local cafes, stores and restaurants” and redistribute it to users, to avoid the food going to waste.

Launched in January this year, the app has also been urging food manufacturers to join its campaign, and to better explain the difference between ‘best before,’ and ‘use by,’ dates.

Lucie Basch, founder and president of Too Good To Go, stated in a press release: “Too Good To Go is committed to deeply changing attitudes to reduce food wastage: we have therefore been working for two years now on the issue of best before dates, so that consumers can better understand them and waste less.

“Collaboration with professionals is crucial, and we are very proud that Bel… is raising consumer awareness on a massive scale with a flagship brand such as La Vache Qui Rit! It’s an emblematic product for the picnic and summer season, so the project will have all the more impact on reducing food waste.”

Elodie Parre, Bel’s director of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), said: “At Bel, we take the subject of food waste very seriously. As a company that is committed to healthier and more responsible food for all, we work to prevent waste at every stage of the manufacture of our products.

“Alongside Too Good To Go and the other members of the Pact, we want to raise awareness and engage our consumers in the movement.”

Know your dates

A ‘best before date’ (‘date de durabilite minimale‘ or DDM, in French) is distinct from a ‘use by date’ (‘date de limite de consommation‘ or DLC).

‘Use by’ means that a food may be dangerous to eat after this date, and must be consumed by then. This usually applies to fresh food that spoils easily, such as meat or fish.

‘Best before’ means that the food may suffer in appearance, freshness or flavour after this date, but can still be consumed without any risk, if the overall look, smell and taste of the product appears acceptable.

In France, 10 million tonnes of food is thrown away each year – the equivalent of 20 tonnes per minute, or 317kg per second.

Each person wastes the equivalent of 29kg of food per year, which equates to one meal per week, and €108 per year.

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Written by

Mark T Connor

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