Industry guidance on setting product shelf life

10 November 2017

Reducing food waste, without any compromise to the safety of food, is a commitment we at the Food Standards Agency share with the FDF. I welcome the publication of this sensible guidance on setting product shelf life, and explaining what factors affect the expiry date of a food product. This is another welcome step towards preventing safe food from going to waste.

Heather Hancock, Chairman of the Food Standards Agency


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Food waste is an issue that all parts of society can unite in reducing. The food and drink industry has a pivotal role in ensuring that consumers understand the date marks on food and drink products and use them in support of food safety as well as waste reduction. It is the responsibility of Food Business Operators (FBOs) to set shelf lives such that food safety is assured whilst at the same time ensuring that no safe and high quality food is discarded due to inappropriate date marking. Working with organisations such as WRAP, it is our shared ambition to deliver environmental benefits within a commercial context, bringing long term mutual outcomes for all parties.

However, the shelf life of a food must be assessed carefully and with the full knowledge of the risks involved, to avoid putting the consumer and ultimately the Food Business Operator (FBO) at risk. Setting shelf-life typically involves a number of steps as outlined below. This often includes shelf-life studies which aid in determining the length of time the product will meet certain standards in relation to parameters such as microbiology, taste, appearance, vitamin levels and smell.

To note the EU regulations referenced in this document may be subject to change after the UK exits the EU.