‘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.”


Jasper Jolly

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
M&S removes use-by dates from milk to reduce waste
Retailer switches to best-before dates, urging customers to use ‘sniff test’ before pouring good milk away

Zoe Wood

06, Jun, 2023 @2:35 PM

Article image
Milk price row: Aldi, Lidl and Morrisons vow to raise price paid to farmers
Supermarkets join Asda in bowing to pressure and pledge to pay more per litre – but amount still less than estimated 30p litre cost of producing milk

Graham Ruddick

14, Aug, 2015 @12:50 PM

Article image
Plastic packaging increases fresh food waste, study finds
Research by sustainability charity Wrap debunks idea single-use plastic on fruit and veg helps prevent waste

Zoe Wood

24, Feb, 2022 @12:01 AM

Article image
'Wonky' fruit and veg sales put Morrisons on straight path to growth
Bradford-based chain becomes fastest-growing of the UK’s big four supermarkets

Sarah Butler

26, Jun, 2018 @9:14 AM

Article image
Big apples: unusual weather produces fruit twice the normal size
Morrisons supermarket says the apples will be the biggest sold in living memory

Rebecca Smithers Consumer affairs correspondent

05, Dec, 2017 @3:28 PM

Article image
Waitrose removes best-before dates from fresh food to reduce waste
Shoppers encouraged to trust own judgment as chain removes dates from packaged fruit and vegetables

Sarah Butler

01, Aug, 2022 @6:00 AM

Article image
Asda scraps ‘best before’ dates from many fresh foods to help cut waste
Latest supermarket to reduce labelling says removal from nearly 250 products will also save customers money

Guardian staff and agency

24, Aug, 2022 @11:45 AM

Article image
Milk prices, morality and market mechanisms | Letters
Letters: I have not yet heard any government minister criticise the National Farmers Union in its recent action. Is this the first time they have failed to condemn union action?


13, Aug, 2015 @5:50 PM

Article image
Morrisons to sell 'wonky' pomegranates to meet rising demand
Fruit will come in different sizes and have blemishes but will cost 30p, compared to average 74p in UK supermarkets

Rebecca Smithers Consumer affairs correspondent

16, Nov, 2017 @12:01 AM

Article image
Morrisons gives food banks £10m during coronavirus outbreak
Supermarket lifts restrictions and reopens cafes as depots to allow customers to donate

Rebecca Smithers

29, Mar, 2020 @11:01 PM