Distinction drawn between “expiry date” and “best before date”

Madras High Court: While discussing the issue that whether “expiry date” and “best before date” are similar as contended by the petitioner in the present case, the bench of Vaidyanathan, J. observed that there is a clear distinction between the two terms. While “expiry date” means the end of estimated period under any stated storage conditions, after which product probably will not have the quality and safety attributes normally expected by the consumers; whereas “best before date” means the period during which the product shall remain fully marketable and shall retain specific qualities for which tacit or express claims have been made. The Court further added that Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labeling) Regulations, 2011 has clearly drawn the distinction between the terms.

The case before the Court was that one of the food items imported by the petitioner did not meet the labeling requirements of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 as the expiry date and the best before date for the product was same, whereas the Guidelines by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) state explicitly that the two dates should be different and clearly specified. Counsel H.R Krishnan appearing for the petitioner argued that as per the requisites of Rule 2.2.9 of 2011 Regulations, only the date of manufacture and best before date is required to be furnished. K. Surendranath appearing for the respondents put forth that there is a distinction between “best before date” and “expiry date” and in view of this distinction FSSAI issued Guidelines dated 24.01.2013 directing that in case of wholesale packages which contain both “best before date” and “expiry date”, they should be different and not same.

The Court after a detailed analysis of the concerned provisions, observed that when there is a is clear distinction between “expiry date” and “best before date” then the petitioner cannot be allowed to mention a single date for both as it would mislead the consumers to think that the product will never lose its quality. The Court on perusing the petitioner’s contention of absence of a specific law prohibiting mentioning of a single date as the expiry date and best before date observed that, in presence of the FSSAI Guidelines such argument is misconceived. Furthermore it was observed that there is no requirement to mention both ‘”best before date” and ‘expiry date’ and that a wholesale package can have either “best before date” or “expiry date”, but in case if the manufacturer intends to give both dates, then two dates should be different and clearly specified. M/S. Amrut Distilleries Ltd. v. The Authorized Officer, FSSAI, 2015 SCC OnLine Mad 321, decided on 19.03.2015 

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