‘Use by’ dates on milk should be scrapped to prevent millions of pints from being wasted each year, a charity has warned.
Food waste reduction charity Wrap said people should rely on the sniff test and ‘best before’ dates to determine whether their milk has gone off, as opposed to checking the ‘use by’ date and then throwing away milk that could be perfectly safe to drink.
Almost 500 million pints of milk are wasted each year, the charity said, and more than a fifth of that is discarded because of the ‘use by’ label.
Wrap is currently meeting with members of the dairy industry, the Food Standards Agency and government officials about getting rid of ‘use by’ dates on milk products.
The charity said the date marks were being used more and more on products that don’t necessarily need them. For example, yoghurts, loose (deli) cheese, chilled naan bread and in-store baked goods.
It advised that in these instances, a ‘best before’ date should be used instead.
Current guidance from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Wrap is for products to have a ‘use by’ date only where there is a food safety risk.
By removing ‘use by’ dates on milk, more than 100 million wasted pints could be saved each year.
Andrew Parry, the charity’s special adviser on food and drink, told The Times: “We are exploring with the dairy sector whether milk could move to a ‘best before’ date. That could really help reduce milk wastage.”
The hope is that new guidance will be released later this year.
Wrap has already worked with Dairy UK and the British Soft Drink Association to develop guidance around implementing ‘best before’ dates on cheese and pasteurised fruit juices.
“Such changes give consumers the confidence and option to make use of products after the ‘best before’ date if for whatever reason they are not eaten before the date passes,” a spokesperson told The Huffington Post UK.
They added: “There are legitimate reasons why some products may change from a ‘best before’ date to a ‘use by’, for example due to changes in ingredients, preservatives or processing and packaging technologies, but this decision should always be made on the basis of food safety, rather than becoming a default position.”
Nutritionist Charlotte Stirling-Reed said she’s interested to see the response from the FSA regarding the effect the move would have on public health.
She continued: “As humans we have remarkable systems and senses – sight, smell and taste, mainly – for telling if food has ‘gone off’ or is inedible. Something like milk quite quickly turns and you’ll soon smell or taste that it’s gone off without glugging too much.
“Food waste is a huge problem in the UK and it’s good to encourage people to try and reduce the amount they waste.”