‘Swapping use-by dates for ‘sniff test’ could save 100m pints of milk’

Kelsi Farrington

Ditching use-by dates in favour of the more traditional ‘sniff test’ could save more than 100m pints of milk in the UK each year, according to research by waste and recycling advisory body Wrap

How do you know when the milk in your fridge has gone off? People may soon be urged to use the classic ‘sniff test’ to gauge this rather than relying on use-by labels. Wrap, the government’s waste advisory board, suggests that use-by labels cause vast quantities of milk to be unnecessarily poured down the drain each year. The waste could amount to 100m pints per year, a Wrap spokesman confirmed to Positive News.

In Wrap’s most recent retailer survey, based on data collected in 2015, experts suggest that around 2m tonnes of food is discarded due to it ‘not being used in time’. Wrap is now lobbying for dairy companies, the Food Standards Agency and government bodies to phase out use-by dates in order to dissuade people from automatically throwing products out.

“We know that changes to packs and labels, which give clarity around date and storage options, can have a dramatic effect on how much good food ends up in the bin,” said Steve Creed, Wrap’s director of business programmes. “So getting the right messages in place is critical”.

We know that changes to packs and labels can have a dramatic effect on how much good food ends up in the bin

Given that the average UK home wastes £700 worth of groceries each year, the charity is recommending that retailers use a best-before label instead. The survey, which considered food packaging and labelling in general, found some aspects had improved but work was needed to improve many others.

It also noted that approximately 150,000 tonnes of household food waste was avoided in 2015 compared to 2007. Wrap said the reduction had saved UK families an average of £400 per year, and was the result of “technical changes to products”. The number of products found to have two date labels – a system shoppers find ‘confusing’ – had fallen from almost 40 per cent in 2009 to less than 3 per cent in 2015.


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