Sainsbury’s is preparing to replace use-by dates with best-before dates across its range of own-brand milk products, impacting 44 items.

This transition encompasses all fresh and organic milk available in England, Scotland and Wales, resulting in a considerable shift for more than 730 million pints of milk sold annually.

Research conducted by WRAP (the Waste and Resources Action Programme) indicates that milk ranks as the third most wasted food in the UK, with 490 million pints discarded each year, primarily due to exceeding their use-by dates.

Sainsbury’s decision to adopt best-before dates on its milk products aims to mitigate this issue by allowing customers more time to consume their milk safely.

The transition will be completed by the end of February 2024.

Distinguishing use-by and best-before dates

According to the Food Standards Agency, use-by dates require that on safety grounds, foods should not be consumed beyond their specified date unless they have been frozen before the date is reached.

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But best-before dates relate to food quality, indicating that foods can still be consumed after the specified date.

Sainsbury’s will encourage its customers to follow the FSA’s guidance, suggesting they rely on sensory cues, such as smelling the product, to determine whether milk with a best-before date label is still suitable for consumption.

Ruth Cranston, director of corporate responsibility and sustainability at Sainsbury’s, emphasised the company’s commitment to combating food waste, stating: “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.”

Enhancing recyclability and sustainability

In addition to the milk labelling change, Sainsbury’s recently completed the rollout of clear caps on its own-brand milk bottles. This move will improve the recyclability of plastic packaging.

As part of the Courtauld Commitment 2030, the supermarket is actively working to assist customers in reducing household food waste.

This transition to best-before dates for milk exemplifies its dedication to this commitment, following previous decisions to adopt best-before dates on yoghurts and removing best-before dates from more than 1,500 products, including fresh produce items.