Soda bread

Source: Getty

The secret to my grandmother’s soda bread was that she used curdled milk. She taught me milk need never be wasted

Bravo Morrisons for being the first UK supermarket to switch from ‘use by’ to ‘best before’ dates on its own-brand milk.

Food waste charity Wrap calculates this progressive move, which other chains ought to follow, will save seven million pints being wasted every year.

Waste apart, the most refreshing aspect of this initiative is that by encouraging us to use the ‘sniff test’ and trust our noses with milk, Morrisons is treating customers as adults who are capable of employing their brains and senses to assess whether food is fresh and safe.

While the shelf life on Morrisons milk will stay the same, customers will “be encouraged to use their own judgement after the best before date”. As Morrisons points out, our noses are easily able to detect milk that has gone off.

Could Morrisons’ milk ‘sniff test’ herald a reappraisal of on-pack labelling?

This wisdom, for me, is a welcome blast from the past. My grandmother’s soda bread was peerless, her secret being that she used curdled milk. She taught me milk need never be wasted.

Earlier this month, I used up surplus pints I had over-bought a fortnight earlier. Too far gone to drink for sure, but it made a good macaroni bake, with any unpalatably ripe notes in the milk kicked into submission by pungent leftovers from the Christmas cheeseboard.

Back in the day, thrifty domestic cooks relied on their instincts and food rotation experience, but for the most part nowadays, government and retailers treat consumers as children who are incapable of interpreting any nuanced advice.

This culture of idiocy is enshrined in our infantile, simplistic traffic lights labelling scheme, and in the asinine European Nutri-Score system, which fetishise isolated food components as either good or bad.

In fact it’s an absurd irony of modern food retailing that the more labels are crowded with logos and supposedly informative statements, the less consumers seem to understand perishability.

Apart from ticking all the legally required weights and measures boxes, the justification for copious food labelling was that it would give us more insight into products. But an unintended result is that this approach has effectively deskilled us, and robbed us of the experiential confidence around food that our ancestors took for granted.