The decision by Morrisons to remove Use-By-dates from milk packaging to avoid food wastage is welcomed news for the dairy industry, according to the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF).
From the end of January, the retailer will replace Use-By-dates with Best Before dates on 90% of its own-brand milk and encourage customers to use a sniff test to check quality.
Use-By dates are about food safety and should not be exceeded, whereas Best Before dates are about food quality, meaning the food will be safe to eat after this date but may not be at its best.
The retailer hopes the move will save millions of pints from being thrown away unnecessarily each year, with milk the third most wasted food and drink product in the UK, after potatoes and bread.
According to the recycling charity Wrap, 490 million pints of milk are tipped away each year.
Peter Alvis, RABDF Chairman, says the supermarket’s decision is good news for the industry. “A lot of effort goes into milk production, and anything we can do to minimise its waste is welcomed.
Improving food security welcomed
“In the UK, we are only about 77% self-sufficient in milk production, so reducing waste will help some way to improve food security and reducing food miles.”
There are also environmental benefits by reducing milk wastage, says Mr Alvis. “It takes 8 litres of water to produce 1 litre of milk or 158 litres of tap water to produce 1 litre of almond drink. So, if we can prevent 490 million pints from going down the drain, that equates to circa 2 billion litres of water saved,” he added.
The carbon footprint of a litre of British milk is around 1.25kg CO2e36 compared to a global average of 2.9kg CO2e per litre, with the dairy industry responsible for less than 2% of the UK’s total emissions.
Mr Alvis hopes more retailers will follow suit by replacing Use-By dates with Best Before dates on milk and some dairy products and calls on the supermarkets to educate consumers on the different labelling terminology.
“As well as more supermarkets replacing Use-By dates with Best Before dates on some of its dairy products, it is also important they explain what the terms mean. Just because something it passed its Best Before date, it doesn’t mean it needs to be binned,” he said.