REINER® Marking Systems for Marking Foods with Best-Before-DatesMarking finished packagings securely and quickly with a best-before date

The regulation on marking packed foods and cosmetics with a best-before date was an important achievement in consumer protection nearly 40 years ago.

Back then, just as now in 2021, this European specification poses a great many challenges: To the producer of the goods concerning specification of the safe date, to the manufacturers and dealers for the technical marking of the finished packagings and not least to the consumers, who need to properly interpret this best-before date and not mistake it for a use-by date.

While the marking is applied relatively easily right at the production lane in the area of industrial production, producers and dealers without production lanes have always struggled with manual solutions, such as separate paper labels.

This is done even though the task can be completed simply, safely and universally today, using mobile digital printing: With the mobile inkjet printers from innovation forge REINER®, in particular the handheld inkjet jetStamp® 990 model.

The mobile inkjet printer for product marking:
Direct printing of numbers, dates, times and texts to the finished packagings, just as you need it
• On nearly any surface of metal, plastic, glass, bent surfaces, coated labels
• Ideal for labelling of small parts
• Contains 25 individual print images and can be switched in operation
• The imprint can be created easily and quickly at the computer using the enclosed software PCset graphic and transmitted by USB
• The handheld inkjet marker jetStamp® 990 makes it possible to practically and easily integrate the handheld inkjet to into the packaging routes

» To the handheld expiry date printer jetStamp® 990

Inetresting information to best-before-date

Why is there a best-before date?

What does the best-before date mean for small producers, small and medium-sized enterprises?

What does the best-before date say according to the law (food labelling regulation)?

A best-before date ("MDH") is usually mandatory when selling foods that are not offered openly but in a closed package.
This is the date until which the product will "keep its specific properties under appropriate storage conditions." If a product changes its "composition" so much after a certain time has passed that its nutrition-physiological effect (such as the vitamin content), enjoyment value (taste, smell, colour, consistency) or usability (e.g. raising capacity in yeast) no longer lives up to the product promise, the buyer should be informed of this "limit date" on the packaging.

Depending on the product, this can also be about guaranteeing that no harmful germs have spread in the packaging yet – at least until the best-before date. Therefore, companies add a buffer to the date, which explains why foods are still edible long after the best-before date printed on them.

There are no legal provisions in Germany that forbid trade from continuing to sell the goods after the best-before date. However, the dealer is obligated to check that the goods are still good. They must be marked separately then. Such products are usually sold in the special bargains and subject to a discount of 50% and more.

Handheld inkjet printing on plastic

What is the best-before date, and how is it different from the use-by date?

According to general understanding, the "best-before date" is always used in connection with the food labelling regulation. In the years since the best-before date was introduced, and in particular also in 2021, the consequences of this marking obligation have been discussed controversially many times. Many consumers mistake it for the use-by date. A great share of foods needlessly thrown away is disposed of due to this misunderstanding. When the best-before date is reached, this does not automatically reduce the value of the product or render it unsuitable for ingestion. In order to counter the throwaway trend, many TV reports and articles on social media tackle the subject and illustrate in "self-experiments" that, e.g., yoghurt is still perfectly edible even as much as four weeks after the best-before date. Information initiatives of the Federal Ministry for nutrition and agriculture support this trend.

The use-by date or expiration date is very different from the best-before date. It must be used when marking highly perishable foods that may pose a direct threat to the consumers' health after a short period. Known examples for this are, in particular, minced meat and raw poultry. The consequences when the use-by date is exceeded are much stricter. These products must no longer be sold or eaten immediately.

Who specifies the best-before date for foods? And: Who invented the best-before date to begin with?

The printed best-before date is the manufacturer's own responsibility, based on the provisions of the EU food information regulation, but most of all based on many years of experience and/or specific storage tests.

According to Wikipedia, the first approaches to using a best-before date can be found in Sweden as early as in 1946. The founding of the "Institute for preservation research" and later a "Refrigeration industry agency" there served as an example for Austria in the 1960s. In the early 1980s, the marking obligation for food was also introduced to the German regulations and, in the scope of harmonisation of laws in the European Union, finally to the EU food information regulation.

Where does the marking obligation for foods require the best-before date to be put, and how does the best-before date have to be indicated?

Like any marking, the best-before date must be easily legible on the packaging (with a font size of at least 6 points = 2 mm and sufficient contrast. Compliance with these provisions is reviewed and violations are sanctioned by the authorities in the individual Federal states.
A new EU regulation has put an end to the need to place a best-before date on the packaging of very durable foods such as salt, sugar and vinegar.
Handheld inkjet printer Handjet

Which printers are suitable for marking foods with a best-before date?