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Identification of prepacked foodstuffs by lot


Prepacked foodstuffs must indicate a manufacturing or packaging lot reference, a system which is harmonised throughout the European Union (EU). The lot reference allows consumers to trace the product in the event of any dispute or health risk. The date of minimum durability or "use by" date can be used as the means of identifying the lot.


Council Directive 89/396/EEC of 14 June 1989 on indications or marks identifying the lot to which a foodstuff belongs.



Directive 89/396/EEC applies to all prepacked foodstuffs.

The term "lot" means a batch of sales units of a foodstuff produced, manufactured or packaged under identical conditions.

  • agricultural products sold at temporary storage, preparation or packaging stations, producers' organisations, preparation or processing systems;
  • products which are not prepacked;
  • products in packagings or containers, the largest side of which has an area of less than 10 cm2;
  • individual portions of ice cream.

Labelling of lot

The lot indicated on the packaging or container is determined by the producer, manufacturer or packager of the foodstuff in question, or the first seller within the European Union (EU).

The indication is preceded by the letter "L", except where it can be distinguished clearly from other labelling indications. In all cases, it must be clearly visible, clearly legible and indelible.

It is not necessary to indicate the lot if the date of minimum durability or "use by" date (indicating the day, month and year) appears on the label.


ActEntry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal

Directive 89/396/EEC



OJ L 186, 30.6.1989

Amending act(s)Entry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal

Directive 91/238/EEC



OJ L 107, 27.4.1991

Directive 92/11/EEC



OJ L 65, 11.3.1992


Agreement on the European Economic Area – Annex II – Technical regulations, standards, testing and certification – List provided in Article 23 [Official Journal L 1 of 3.1.1994].
Directive 89/396/EEC has been incorporated by the Agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA). It also applies to Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

Last updated: 18.02.2011
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