M&S removes use-by dates on bottles of milk - but how can you tell if it’s gone off?

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M&S has announced it is removing use-by dates on milk to minimise food waste

M&S has made a huge change to its bottles of milk as it aims to help customers ‘make more sustainable choices’. M&S announced it has removed ‘Use By’ dates across its RSPCA Assured Select Farms British and organic fresh milk as part of its commitment to halving food waste by 2030 and reaching net zero by 2040.

The change, which is being rolled out across all M&S UK stores from this week, will see ‘Use By’ dates on fresh milk replaced with ‘Best Before’ dates. M&S is the first retailer to offer ‘Best Before’ labelling on fully recyclable milk bottles, following the removal of coloured plastic caps on milk earlier this year.

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M&S’ latest Family Matters Index revealed that 72% of UK families are taking steps to reduce household waste and over half (55%) of families say it’s important that the shops they buy from make it easier for them to make more sustainable choices. M&S aims to help shoppers implement this by changing to ‘Best Before’ labels on milk as shelf life and overall quality of milk has improved in recent years.

Catherine David, director collaboration and change, WRAP: “Milk is the third most wasted food in the home behind potatoes and bread, with around 490 million pints poured down the drain every year - 18 and a half per household - worth £270 million. The main reason is not drinking before the Use-By date. By changing its British and organic fresh milk to a Best-Before date, M&S is instantly helping its customers save money and cut waste by giving them more time to consume the milk they buy.

“WRAP’s joint Best Practice with the Food Standards Agency, Defra and Dairy UK states to only apply a Use-By date when required for food safety reasons, and it’s fantastic to see M&S - a Courtauld 2030 signatory - making this switch. This type of change to labelling is fundamental in helping people reduce household food waste, which currently tops more than 6.6 million tonnes each year across the UK.”

M&S removes use-by dates on bottles of milkM&S removes use-by dates on bottles of milk
M&S removes use-by dates on bottles of milk | Pexels

The change means customers will be encouraged to use their own judgement before throwing away milk. But if you’re worried about drinking gone-off milk, we have rounded up some ways to tell if it’s past its best.

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Food standards agency advice

The sniff test

According to the Food Standards Agency, food and drink with a best before date (which concerns food quality), you may choose to use sensory cues to find out if the food is okay to eat. For example, you could look for visible mould on bread, taste to see if biscuits/crisps are stale, or sniff/smell some dairy products with a best before date to see if they have soured.

Milk with a best before date label can be sniffed to see if it has gone bad and always check the label instructions before using. If you have a problem with your sense of smell and cannot use it to detect if food with a best before date has gone off or stale, then ask someone else to check it for you.

If that is not an option, then it is advised that you stick to the best before date on the packet as this has been determined by the manufacturer to be the date at which the food is at its best.

According to Arla Foods,  if the milk doesn’t smell, look strange (lumpy or separated), and it tastes just fine, then you’re okay to drink it.

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