Morrisons scraps use-by dates on its milk in favour of 'sniff test'

By Catherine Furze

Supermarket chain Morrisons is scrapping 'use-by' dates on most of its own-branded milk from the end of this month, in a bid to prevent millions of pints of milk being wasted every year.

The Bradford-based retailer is encouraging customers to sniff the milk to check whether it's still fresh instead of relying on a pre-set date on the label.

Ian Goode, senior milk buyer at Morrisons, said: "Generations before us have always used the sniff test - and I believe we can too."

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Morrisons is advising customers to hold the milk bottle to their nose and also to look at the milk before throwing it away.

If it smells sour or if you can see that it has curdled, then it has gone off. Otherwise, it's fine to use.

But the Food Standards Agency (FSA) said while it was acceptable to have 'use by' or 'best before' on milk depending on the processing and type, when dealing with food generally, sniffing is not an appropriate safety test, especially with products that could cause food poisoning.

However, recycling charity Wr ap has supported the move.

Around 490 million pints of milk are wasted every year, according to Wrap, making it the third most wasted food product after bread and potatoes.

The charity thinks about 85 million pints of this milk waste every year may be due to customers routinely throwing milk away as they thought it was unsafe to drink after the 'use by' date had passed.

However research shows the milk can be used days after the date.

Marcus Gover, of Wrap, said: "I am delighted that Morrisons is the first UK supermarket to take this important step to help reduce household food waste - it shows real leadership and we look forward to more retailers reviewing date labels on their products and taking action."

The milk on the left shows the old 'use by' date, while the milk on the right carries the same date but with a 'best before' label (Morrisons)

Mr Goode, of Morrisons, admitted the move was 'a bold step', which the grocery giant reckons could save seven million pints of its own-brand milk being poured away each year.

He said that Morrisons research had showed that milk does not need to be labelled as a perishable food, and therefore did not need a 'use by' date on the packaging.

The bottles will instead show ‘best before’ dates to indicate to customers when they should drink it by - to get the best taste . Unlike some other fresh products, drinking milk after a ‘best before’ date is not a food safety issue.

"The dates on the milk will stay the same - it is what we are asking customers to do which is changing," he said.

"Good quality, well-kept milk has a good few days life after normal 'use by' dates - and we think it should be consumed, not tipped down the sink.

"So we're taking a bold step today and asking customers to decide whether their milk is still good to drink"

The move comes after Morrisons scrapped ‘use by’ dates across some of its own-brand yogurt and hard cheese ranges in 2020, in a bid to reduce food waste in stores by 50% by 2030.

Tips to make your milk last longer

  1. Take a cool bag to the supermarket and put your milk in it to transport it home;
  2. Put your milk in the fridge as soon as you get home (make sure your fridge is set at 1-4 degrees C);
  3. Never drink directly from the milk bottle;
  4. Close your milk bottle immediately after use and put it back in the fridge.

What is the difference between 'best before' and 'use by' dates?

Depending on the product, you will see one of the two dates on most packaged foods:

  • a 'use by' date - this relates to food safety. You can eat food until and on the use-by date but not after. You will see use-by dates on food that goes off quickly, such as meat products or ready-to-eat salads.
  • a 'best before date' - this relates to food quality, not safety. The food will be safe to eat after this date but may not be at its best. Its flavour and texture might not be as good.

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