TMC extension on the label, replies the lawyer Dario Dongo

Dear Dongo Lawyer,

our company - importer and distributor of numerous Asian food products - has established a procedure for the extension of the TMC on the label of some long-life references (e.g. unshelled soy beans, frozen foods), following specific analysis of the risk.

However, the lawyer of one of our clients challenged us to affix the labels with a new term of conservation, citing the lack of supporting documents. Is there any further fulfillment that has escaped our procedures?

Many thanks, Alessandro


The lawyer Dario Dongo, Ph.D. in European food law, answers

Dear Alessandro good morning,

the essential requirement of every food supply is the safety of the products, in compliance with the criteria established by the General Food Law (EC reg. 178/02, article 14). And food safety, in its broader notion established therein, also requires correct information regarding the characteristics of the product.

TMC, 'bestbefore'

The so-called TMC (Minimum Storage Term) is one of the mandatory information to be reported on the food label - or on the commercial documents relating to them, in the case of B2B sales (business to business) - through the words'To be consumed preferably by'('.', in English). (1)

The responsible operator information on the label (in this case, the importer. See note 2) can freely decide the extension of the TMC for each product. Based on a risk analysis which EFSA (2020) has provided specific guidelines, with the primary objective of reducing the waste of edible food. (3)

TMC and food safety

Food safety of the products in question regardless of the extension of the TMC precisely because they - unlike foods subject to mandatory indication of the expiry date on the label (4) - are not rapidly perishable from a microbiological point of view. Frozen food preserved continuously in the freezing chain can remain safe for thousands of years, as can still edible honey taken from the archaeological excavations of ancient Egypt.

The evaluation area of  shelf life in foods subject to.'rather, it notes from an organoleptic and commercial point of view. And it is still subject to two variables:

  • nature of the product. The different processes (e.g. pasta v. Cereal flakes) to which an identical raw material (e.g. wheat) can be subjected can significantly affect the integrity and palatability of the product over time,
  • storage conditions. Exposure to sources of light and heat can affect both the oxidation of foods (eg oils, nuts with shells), and the migration of substances contained in the materials in contact with them. (5)

Label and documents

The label of the food, following the extension of the TMC, can be replaced or simply corrected by affixing a 'tailor-made' sticker. A sticker that is suitable to show the date by which the food can be safely consumed, hiding the one originally affixed. That's enough.

The operators of the food supply chain are not obliged to share documents relating to their self-control procedures with other operators. These procedures may indeed contain passages covered by trade secrets and the demand for their knowledge by customers can integrate an incorrect commercial practice. (6)

Provisional conclusions

Durability of foods is the subject of numerous studies, to which reference is made. (7) The shared objective of the social parties concerned - cd stakeholders, which also include consumers and official control authorities - is to prevent, mitigate and minimize food waste. This involves, in many cases, the revision of food and packaging technologies.

Some foodsconversely, they can also be stored for long periods without losing their essential characteristics. In these cases it is sufficient for the operators to verify it shelf life, with an integrated scientific approach, (7) so that it can be extended without preconceived limits. The control authorities will be able to verify the correctness of the procedures, that's all.

cordially

Dario

Notes

(1) Dario Dongo. TMC and expiration date. GIFTS (Great Italian Food Trade). one

(2) Name and address on the label, the lawyer Dario Dongo replies. DO (Food and Agriculture Requirements). one

(3) Dario Dongo. Expiry date and TMC, EFSA guidelines for the reduction of food waste. GIFTS (Great Italian Food Trade). one

(4) Expiry date or TMC? The lawyer Dario Dongo answers. DO (Food and Agriculture Requirements). one

(5) TMC on vinegar in PET? The lawyer Dario Dongo answers. DO (Food and Agriculture Requirements). one

(6) Dario Dongo. Unfair commercial practices in the agri-food chain, Legislative Decree 198/2021. The ABC. GIFTS (Great Italian Food Trade). one

(7) Dario Dongo. Shelf-life, food safety and weight loss. An integrated approach. GIFTS (Great Italian Food Trade). one



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