Put your nose to the test: Morrisons encourage customers to use 'sniff test' on milk to save waste

ITV News Meridian's Joe Coshan puts shoppers in Maidstone to the test to see if they could sniff out spoiled milk

Morrisons is encouraging customers to use a 'sniff test' on their milk, from today (31 January), in a bid to reduce food waste.

The supermarket has become the first in the UK to replace 'use by' labels to prevent millions of pints being poured down the drain every year.

The milk packaging will show ‘Best Before’ dates instead to indicate to customers when they should drink it by, to get the best taste.

Credit: Morrisons

Unlike some other fresh products, drinking milk after a ‘Best Before’ date is not a food safety issue. 

Milk is the third most wasted food and drink product in the UK, after potatoes and bread, with around 490 million pints wasted every year. It also has the largest carbon footprint of these food and drink products because its production is so resource-intensive.

One litre of milk can account for up to 4.5kg of CO2.

Robin Betts, from Kent Farm Dairy, said: "We're literally getting the milk into a bottle on the same day the cows are being milked and that's what it used to be like in the old days.

"If we can do it more locally, with dairy farms like us, with our electric van going a few miles down the road instead of articulated lorries driving hundreds of miles, so for the environment it's got to be a massive plus."

Dairy farmers have welcomed the changes. Credit: ITV News Meridian

But food scientists in the Thames Valley have raised concerns about the reliability and the safety of the old-fashioned 'sniff test'.

Dr Kimon-Andreas Karatzas from the University of Reading, said: "Most of the people that get food poisoning from different foods, they never smell anything.

"So the sniff test is not a good way of finding whether you'll get food poisoning from any food including milk."

He added: "However this is a matter of statistics and a matter of chance, if you treat your milk well and you don't keep it a while out of the refrigerator, then you might be able to consume it a few days afterwards.

"Instead of removing the use by date, Morrisons could argue and bring scientific data to extend the use by date, but I cannot understand why the use by date can be removed completely."

How to carry out the 'sniff test'

  • Look at your milk - if you can see that it has curdled then it is not right. 

  • Hold the milk bottle to your nose - if it smells sour then it may have spoiled. 

Morrisons would advise any customer with a smell or taste disorder to use the ‘Best Before’ and dispose of the milk once this date has passed. Our ‘Best Before’ date will be the same duration as the ‘Use By’ date would have been on our old packaging, so by continuing to follow the date on the bottle, customers will experience no difference. 

Ian Goode, Senior Milk Buyer at Morrisons, said: “Wasted milk means wasted effort by our farmers and unnecessary carbon being released into the atmosphere. Good quality well-kept milk has a good few days life after normal ‘Use By’ dates - and we think it should be consumed not tipped down the sink. So we’re taking a bold step today and asking customers to decide whether their milk is still good to drink. Generations before us have always used the sniff test - and I believe we can too.”