The retailer said the change was made possible by improvements in shelf-life and quality of milk (Picture: Getty Images)
Marks & Spencer has announced it will be dropping use-by dates on its own-brand milk, with the aim of helping reduce the almost half a billion pints wasted in the UK each year.
From this week, the quality warning will be replaced by less rigid best-before dates, which encourage milk drinkers to use their own judgment before pouring the white stuff down the sink.
The supermarket is the second in the UK to bring in the change, after Morrisons announced it would be calling on customers to use the ‘sniff test’ instead from January last year.
Improvements in the shelf-life and quality of milk mean it can remain fresh for a while after the use-by date – and it can usually be more reliable to simply smell it to check if it’s off.
In April last year, the Co-op also announced it would be scrapping the use-by dates on its own-brand yoghurt.
According to the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), UK homes throw away an estimated 490,000,000 pints of milk every year.
It is the third most-wasted food item in households around the country, after bread and potatoes.
The changes will come into effect at all M&S stores from this week (Picture: Marks & Spencer)
Catherine David, director of collaboration and change at WRAP, said: ‘The main reason is not drinking before the use-by date.
‘By changing its British and organic fresh milk to a best-before date, M&S is instantly helping its customers save money and cut waste by giving them more time to consume the milk they buy.
She added: ‘This type of change to labelling is fundamental in helping people reduce household food waste, which currently tops more than 6.6 million tonnes each year across the UK.’
Is the ‘sniff test’ safe?
According to the Food Standards Agency (FSA), milk should not be consumed after the use-by date if one is specified – even if it smells fine.
If the milk has a best-before date, though, it can be sniffed to check if something smells wrong.
After Morrisons introduced the new system last year, nutritionist Gabriela Peacock told Metro: ‘I think generally with dairy products, if it’s off, it will be disgusting – and you’ll smell it straight away.
‘With milk, I would say a sniff test is sufficient.’
However, the scheme was criticised by some as unusable by people with anosmia – meaning a partial or full loss of the sense of smell.
It was a particular issue in the midst of a pandemic where one of the main symptoms was the loss of taste and smell.
The FSA says: ‘If you have a problem with your sense of smell and cannot use it to detect if food with a best before date has gone off or stale, then ask someone else to check it for you.
‘If that is not an option, then we advise that you stick to the best before date on the packet as this has been determined by the manufacturer to be the date which the food is at its best.’
M&S has said it is the first retailer in the UK to introduce best-before dates on fully recyclable milk bottles, after replacing coloured lids with white ones earlier this year.
The retailer has committed to halving food waste by 2030.
M&S Director of Corporate Affairs Victoria McKenzie-Gould said: ‘We know tackling food waste is a priority for our customers and we’re confident that these small changes to the packaging of our RSPCA Assured fresh milk, will make a big difference – as seen when we led the way in the removal of best before dates on our fruit and vegetables.’
Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected].
For more stories like this, check our news page.
The UK wastes almost half a billion pints of milk every year.