Just under half (47 per cent) of Europeans who completed the survey understand the meaning of "best before" labelling and somewhat fewer (40 per cent) are aware of the meaning of "use by".
European Commissioner in charge of Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis said: “If we do nothing, food waste could rise to over 120 million tonnes by 2020. In Europe alone, it accounts for estimated annual losses of €200 billion to the European economy.
"Food waste reduction requires commitment and action from farm to fork, and I am pleased to see that over three-quarters of Europeans recognise their own role alongside other actors.
"By working together to prevent food waste, we can save valuable food resources, money and lower our environmental footprint.”
The Commission said the study confirms the need to pursue targeted information and educational initiatives on date marking taking into account the level of understanding and information needs of different consumer groups in EU countries.
Initiatives to fight food waste will be proposed by the commission as part of the new circular economy package to be presented by the end of the year. On 15 October Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis will attend a high level, international webstreamed conference titled "Fight Food Waste, Feed the Planet!" that will take place at the EXPO Milan 2015.
More information on the EU's food waste policy is available here.