Marks & Spencer has become the latest big retail name to remove use-by dates from its fresh milk in an attempt to prevent millions of pints that are still safe to consume being poured away.
With milk ranking as the third most wasted food in UK homes after potatoes and bread, M&S will encourage customers to use the old fashioned sniff test to judge whether their dairy is still drinkable, by replacing use-by labels with a best-before date.
A typical household throws away 18 pints of milk a year, usually because the date has expired. This results in waste on an industrial scale, with 490m pints, worth £270m, being poured away, says Catherine Davidof the sustainability charity Wrap.
“The main reason is not drinking before the use-by date,” said David of why so much milk is wasted. “By changing 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.”
While use-by dates are about safety, and applied to foods that go off quickly and could cause food poisoning, best-before is an indicator of quality. Food is still safe to eat after this date but the flavour and texture may not be as good.
Use-by dates are often found on products, such as milk and yoghurt, where a best-before one might do, a practice blamed for contributing to food waste. Things are starting to change, however. Last year Morrisons switched to best-before dates on its milk while the Co-op removed use-by dates from its own-brand yoghurt.
The average family with children throws away food worth £60 a month, which experts say is both a waste of money and bad for the planet because about a third of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions are associated with food and drink.
Last year M&S removed best-before dates across more than 300 fruit and veg lines, in a move designed to encourage customers to use their judgement on what is still good to eat.
M&S said shoppers would start to see the new labels – with use-by dates replaced with best-before – on its Select Farms British and organic fresh milk this week. The move could have a big impact on milk waste as it sold more than 12m 4-pint cartons of Select Farms semi-skimmed milk alone last year.The combination of improved shelf life and overall quality of milk in recent years had enabled it to make the switch, meaning “customers can use their judgement before throwing away milk”, M&S added.
Source : The Guardian June 06th 2023