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Use the sniff test’: Morrisons to scrap ‘use-by’ dates from milk packaging

Supermarket hopes to stop hundreds of millions of pints being wasted as charities call for other retailers to remove date labels

Morrisons will remove “use-by” dates from milk packaging at the end of the month in an attempt to save millions of pints from being thrown away unnecessarily every year.

The British supermarket is asking customers to use a simple and time-honoured test to work out if cow’s milk is usable: sniff it.

Bottles sold by the retailer will still carry “best before” dates that will give an indication of when the milk will have the best taste, but it can often still be used safely for several days after that point.

The UK wastes about 330,000 tonnes of milk every year, about 7% of total UK production, according to figures from 2018 from food waste charity Wrap. Most of the wasted milk – 490m pints – is thrown away in the home, making it the third most-wasted food in the UK, behind potatoes and bread.

Milk is also associated with high carbon emissions because of the large resources needed to feed cows. Increasing awareness of its carbon footprint has been one factor behind the rapid growth in plant-based alternatives such as oat, soy and almond “milks”.

Morrisons said customers should check milk by holding the bottle to their nose. If it smells sour then it may have spoiled. If it has curdled and lumps have formed that is also a sign it should not be used. Milk’s life can be extended by keeping it cool, and keeping bottles closed as much as possible.

Morrisons is the UK’s fourth-largest supermarket behind Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda with a 10.4% market share, according to data company Kantar.

The move will initially cover 90% of the supermarket’s own-brand milks, including own-brand British and Scottish milks, Morrisons For Farmers milks, and Morrisons organic milks. The supermarket had already scrapped “use-by” dates on some of its own-brand yoghurt and hard cheese ranges in 2020.

Marcus Gover, Wrap’s chief executive, 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.”

Best practice guidelines drawn up by Wrap with the Food Standards Agency and the government say a “use-by” date is only required for food safety reasons, which don’t apply for milk.

Ian Goode, Morrisons’ senior milk buyer, said: “Wasted milk means wasted effort by our farmers and unnecessary carbon being released into the atmosphere.

“Generations before us have always used the sniff test – and I believe we can too.”

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