In the old days, before we had refrigerators and airtight containers, people had to rely on their noses to find out if the food was still usable or had gone out. Now we expect producers and retailers to tell us exactly how long we can store the food we just bought, with ‘expiration dates’ guiding our decisions about what to store safely in the fridge.
Now, however, Morrison’s supermarket is set to scrap ‘last’ dates on most of its milk in an attempt to reduce food waste.
From the end of January, the retailer will instead stamp “best before” dates on 90% of its own brand of milk and will encourage customers to use a sniff test to check the quality.
It believes the move will prevent millions of pints of its own brand of milk from being thrown out every year. Recycling charity Wrap says Morrisons is the first supermarket to announce the move. Marcus Gover, from Wrap, said: “I’m pleased that Morrisons is the first UK supermarket to take this important step to help reduce household food waste – it shows genuine leadership and we look forward to more retailers review date labels on their products and take action. “
Ian Goode, senior milk buyer at Morrisons, said: “Milk waste means wasted effort from our farmers and unnecessary carbon released into the atmosphere.
Read more: Research reveals British food waste habits – but what do they waste the most?
“Well-kept milk of good quality has a few days’ life after normal ‘last’ dates – and we think it should be consumed, not tipped into the sink.
“So we are taking a bold step today and asking customers to decide if their milk is still good to drink.
“Generations before us have always used the sniff test, and I think we can too.”
A sour aroma or curly texture is a sign that the milk has been spoiled.
A spokeswoman for the Food Standards Agency said the “best before” label is fine with milk, unlike some other foods, and the snuff test should be based on common sense.
Milk is the third most spilled food and beverage product in the UK, after potatoes and bread, with around 490 million pints spilled each year, according to Wrap. It also estimates that 85 million pints of milk waste may be due to customers following “use of” labels despite research showing that it can be used days after the date.
But even though this is all good news for the planet, is it so good for our digestion – or are we in danger of making ourselves sick?
See: Is it safe to eat food in swollen or inflated packaging?
Jenna Brown, an Environmental Health Officer and Food Safety Inspector explains, “The expiration date is used for safety reasons and means that it is safe for food to be frozen or ingested up to and including this date, but must not be eaten afterwards. Best before applied for quality reasons , so provided there is no mold, the food is safe to eat after that date, – but beware that the quality may not be so good. “
When it comes to milk, she says: “Overall, I think the move to scrap the last use of milk would be great to help reduce food waste! The average family of 4 can save up to £ 730 a year by reduce their food waste so that this will not only benefit the planet (milk is the third most wasted food in the UK, behind potatoes and bread), but also help families save money. “
But what if you have lost your sense of smell – a key symptom of COVID-19 – or have a stuffy nose?
“The milk will still be issued with a best-before date, so this will give a good indication of helping people make sense when using the ‘sniff’ test. I’m a huge proponent of reducing food waste, but in in the end, if in doubt, throw it out, “Brown said.
Read more: What to eat in 2022: Food trends of the year
Milk is unlikely to kill you even if it is on a trip – but there are some foods, Brown explains, where the “Expiration Date” is “critical to food safety.” sandwiches / salads for sale, the ‘sniff’ test is not appropriate, “she warns.
“After the expiration date, food that is unsafe to eat may look, smell and even taste fine, so it is important that the expiration dates are observed for all other foods.
Just remember that you can extend the shelf life of food with an expiration date by either cooking it or freezing it. “
Food poisoning cases have dropped drastically due to better education, better refrigeration and packaging information – but, says Brown, when it comes to avoiding waste, “it’s important to remember that if you freeze raw meat, you can be sure that you can thaw it, cook it and freeze the leftovers to reheat another day.
“This applies as a rule of thumb to all raw meat and fish – but there is often a misconception that this would be ‘re-freezing’, which is not the case.”
See: Ina Garten shares her 5 tips for freezing food