UK retailer Morrisons ditching use-by dates on milk

By Jim Cornall

- Last updated on GMT

Morrisons is dropping use-by dates from its milk in the UK to address food waste. Pic: Morrisons
Morrisons is dropping use-by dates from its milk in the UK to address food waste. Pic: Morrisons

Related tags: Morrisons, Milk, Food waste, best before date

UK retailer Morrisons is the first supermarket chain in the country to scrap use-by dates on its milk.

The company said the move will help consumers reduce waste, noting 490m pints of milk are wasted in the UK annually.

From January 31, Morrisons will scrap the ‘use by’ dates on 90% of its own-brand milk – and is instead encouraging its customers to use a sniff test - to help to reduce food waste in the home.

Morrisons said it anticipates the move could prevent millions of pints of its own brand milk from being thrown away every year.

‘Use By’ dates will be scrapped from Morrisons own brand British and Scottish milks, Morrisons For Farmers milks and Morrisons organic milks in store - supplied into Morrisons by Arla farmers. Morrisons South West milk and The Best Jersey milk are yet to be converted.

Morrisons will instead encourage its customers to use a simple sniff test to check if their milk is still good to consume. The milk packaging will 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 company said milk is the third most wasted food and drink product in the UK, after potatoes and bread, adding milk has the largest carbon footprint of these food and drink products because its production is so resource intensive. It said one liter of milk can account for up to 4.5kg of CO2​.

It added research shows fresh milk can often last several days beyond the ‘use by’ date on the bottle. However, Morrisons said, UK customers are routinely throwing away milk, as they incorrectly believe it is unsafe to drink.

Morrisons' recommendations:

The milk sniff test

Hold the milk bottle to your nose - if it smells sour then it may have spoiled

Look at your milk - if you can see that it has curdled then don't use it

How to make milk last longer

Put milk in a cool bag when bringing it back from the supermarket

Refrigerate milk as soon as you get your shopping home

Maintain the fridge at between 1 and 4 degree Celsius

Never drink from the milk bottle

Close the milk bottle immediately after use

Do not leave milk out of the fridge

The charity WRAP, which promotes and encourages sustainable resource use, estimates 85m pints of milk waste may be a result of customers sticking to ’use by’ labels or ‘once opened use within’ guidance - when products may still be good to consume.

Ian Goode, senior milk buyer at Morrisons, said, “Wasted milk means wasted effort by our farmers and unnecessary carbon being released into the atmosphere. 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. Generations before us have always used the sniff test - and I believe we can too.”

Marcus Gover, WRAP CEO, added, “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. WRAP’s joint Best Practice with FSA and Defra is to only apply a ‘use by’ date when required for food safety reasons.

“Applying a Best Before date to indicate quality on all other products means people have longer to use their food. Almost 300,000 tonnes of milk is wasted from UK homes each year, worth £270m ($367m), with the main reason being that it isn’t used in time. Making improvements to labelling forms an important part of WRAP’s efforts under the Courtauld Commitment 2030 to reduce household food waste. It is fantastic to see Morrisons, as a Courtauld signatory, making this change – giving people the confidence to use their judgment and consume more of the milk they buy.”

Morrisons scrapped ‘use by’ dates across some of its own-brand yogurt and hard cheese ranges in 2020.

The retailer said it has committed to reducing food waste in stores by 50% by 2030. When waste does occur, Morrisons ‘Unsold Food’ program works with partners including Too Good to Go, The Bread and Butter Thing and local food banks, charities and community groups, to ensure food can be redistributed. Where food cannot be redistributed, Morrisons use anaerobic digestion to generate electricity, which in turn contributes to renewable energy generation across the UK.