Food waste: 'Six meals a week' thrown away by Britons

  • 7 November 2013
  • From the section UK
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Media captionDr Richard Swannell gives tips on sell-by dates and storage

British families throw away an average of the equivalent of six meals per week in food waste, research has suggested.

Publicly-funded recycling group the Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap) said this would amount to £60 a month for a household.

Wrap said buying too much, serving large portions and confusion over food labelling were the main causes.

Its chief executive Dr Liz Goodwin called on stores, food manufacturers and government to tackle the situation.

The foods most commonly thrown out were staples such as bread, milk and potatoes. Some 86 million chickens were said to be discarded every year.

Wrap advised people to buy just what they need, serve smaller portions, and understand the difference between "best before" and "use by" dates.

'Terrific achievement '

The organisation, funded by the governments of the UK and the EU, said households had cut food waste by 21% over five years, saving consumers £13bn.

But Dr Goodwin said this could be reduced by a further 1.7 million tonnes a year by 2025.

She said: "Consumers are seriously worried about the cost of food and how it has increased over recent years. Yet, as Wrap's research shows, we are still wasting millions of tonnes and billions of pounds.

"The UK is leading the way in tackling food waste and the 21% cut is a terrific achievement by millions of people who have taken action, saved money and helped safeguard our natural resources.

"However, there is so much more to go for and I believe we should be going for it."

The government's resource management minister, Dan Rogerson, said "there is still more to do".

"Everyone has a role to play in reducing food waste and we want to see businesses helping consumers to waste less food," he said.

'Cosmetic reasons'

"Cutting waste and driving business innovation will help to build a stronger economy. We will continue to work closely with food retailers and manufacturers to achieve this goal."

Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, rejected the suggestion that supermarket price promotions were to blame.

He said: "The organisation that published the figures did do research on the impact of promotions a couple of years ago and actually didn't find a direct link between promotions and food waste.

"The really important points are just simple things that have shown we can make a difference in our own homes - knowing the difference between a best before and a use by date, thinking about how we store the food and also using our freezers a bit more."

Niki Charalampopoulou, from the campaign group Feeding the 5000, told the BBC there was also a huge problem with waste in the supply chain - often for purely cosmetic reasons.

"A farmer sometimes is forced to waste between 20% and 40% of the food they produce.

"And the problem is not only limited to UK suppliers - we have also worked in Kenya with a UN environment programme where we have seen Kenyan farmers waste up to 40 tonnes of food every week because it doesn't fit the standards of EU and UK."

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