Supermarket ditches milk use by dates in favour of sniff test

A supermarket has raised a few eyebrows for removing the use by date on its milk in favour of a “sniff test”.

Morrisons, a UK-based supermarket chain, said it will replace use by dates with best before dates on its milk citing an effort to ease waste.

“Wasted milk means wasted farmer efforts and more carbon being released into the atmosphere,” Morrisons wrote on Facebook.

“Together we can save 7,000,000 pints of our own brand milk being poured away due to use by dates. Generations before us have used the sniff test… and we can too!”

A woman inspects a carton of milk in a supermarket for its use by date.
Morrisons is removing use by dates from milk in place of best before dates. Source: Getty Images (file pic)

On Facebook, people appeared to be ready to run the gauntlet with their Morrisons milk.

“I've never gone by a use by date. I always smell and look at a product to decide whether it's edible or not,” one woman wrote.

Others applauded the approach to prevent waste.

Some joked it was somewhat problematic relying on a sniff test though as many people have lost their sense of taste as a symptom of coronavirus.

Others asked if they could sniff milk in the supermarket before buying it.


However, one woman wrote she will be looking elsewhere for her milk.

“Won't be buying milk from you then. How do we know how long it's been in store,” she wrote.

Another woman wrote now is the time to “get a milkman”.

The Food Standards Agency told the BBC it is fine to put a best before date on milk as long as it is clearly labelled and the dates are based on "robust evidence about the product concerned".

It did, however, not suggest sniffing as the best way to determine if a food is still OK to consume.

Difference between best before and use by

A best before date “means the food is still safe to eat after the date as long as it is not damaged, deteriorated or perished,” according to Food Safety NSW.

“A 'best before' date simply indicates that the food may lose some of its quality after this date.”

Foods can also be sold after their best before date as long as they have been properly stored and are not damaged. Examples of best before dated foods include tinned items and dried pasta.

A woman pours milk in her coffee.
A sniff test isn't recommended for perishable items such as a milk. Source: Getty Images (file pic)

A use by date means the item has to be consumed by this date.

“After this date foods may be unsafe to eat even if they look fine because the nutrients in the food may become unstable or a build-up of bacteria may occur,” food safety says.

“It is illegal to sell foods after a 'use by' date.”

Examples of foods often sold with use by dates include perishable items such as milk and sliced ham.

Can you consume products after the use by date?

CSIRO applied food microbiology team leader Sandra Olivier previously told Yahoo News Australia you should not consume products after the use by date.

“If you drink milk past its use by date there’s no guarantee it’ll be safe,” Ms Olivier said.

“Don’t use a product past its use by date.”

Ms Olivier added use by dates are added by companies to protect consumers as part of “risk mitigation”.

She said there’s the potential for people to become ill consuming anything past the use by.

Ms Olivier was speaking to Yahoo News after a mum posted her unusual savings tip: drinking milk past the use by date.

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