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No more crying over spilt milk as supermarket ditches use-by dates

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

Sainsbury’s is set to ditch use-by dates on milk bottles in favour of best-before labels in a bid to curb food waste and help shoppers save some money.

The supermarket giant said it will swap labels from displaying use-by dates to best-before dates on its own-brand milk range.

This move will impact 44 products in total, with Sainsbury’s selling 730 million pints of milk every year, including all fresh and organic milk sold across England, Scotland, and Wales.

It comes as research from WRAP revealed milk is the third most wasted food in the UK, with over 490 million pints thrown away each year. Often it’s poured away because the milk has passed its use-by date.

As such, the move to switch to best-before dates should help prevent customers pouring away pints that are still safe to drink.

The new labelling will roll out in the new year, with the change set to be completed by the end of February 2024.

Last year, Sainsbury’s moved from use-by dates to best-before dates on its own-brand yoghurts, and removed best-before dates entirely from over 1,500 products including pineapples, pumpkins, and apples.

Food and drink sniff test

According to the Food Standards Agency (FSA), use-by dates are used to ensure food safety, while best-before dates relate to quality.

Food with a best-before date can be eaten beyond that date, but any product with a use-by date should not be consumed past that date. That is unless it has been frozen on or before that date.

Given the best-before date switch, Sainsbury’s will be encouraging customers to follow the FSA’s guidance, using sensory clues such as sniffing the milk to see if it has gone off.

‘Empowering customers to make their own decisions’

Ruth Cranston, director of corporate responsibility & sustainability at Sainsbury’s, said: “Around a third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. Combatting food waste is one of our top priorities and we are continuously innovating to tackle this issue, all the way from farms and suppliers, right to our customers’ homes.

“By switching to best-before dates on our milk we are empowering customers to make their own decisions on whether their food is good to eat, helping to prevent them from disposing of food too early.”

Catherine David, director of behaviour change and business programmes at WRAP, said: “We are delighted to see this change from Sainsbury’s, which will help reduce food waste in our homes. Wasting food feeds climate change and costs money, with the average family spending over £730 year on good food which ends up in the bin.

“Our research shows applying the appropriate date label to products can help reduce the amount of good food that is thrown away.

“Applying a ‘best before’ date to milk rather than a ‘use by’ date means people can use their judgement to eat beyond that date, allowing longer to use what they buy.”