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


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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.

Start Quote

Consumers are seriously worried about the cost of food. Yet are still wasting millions of tonnes and billions of pounds”

End Quote Dr Liz Goodwin Wrap chief executive

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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  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    It's only the younger generations that waste food, and they do this because they are brainwashed into buying special offers without giving a moment's thought to their consumption needs, and they have been educated to believe every date shown on the packs.

    Example - jar of English Mustard with a Best Before date of June 2014, and consume within 6 weeks. Rubbish. Mustard will keep for years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 176. mojo risin

    'Having best before or use by dates that are closer to reality on many products would be a start'

    Best before dates are a guideline - you should expect it to last at least as long but if stored well it may be good to eat for some time after. I try not to buy what won't be eaten before the date (not always possible with veg or I'd have nothing to eat at the end of the week).

  • Comment number 175.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    At least food will rot down the plastic we throw away won't all it will do is work its way into the eco system and then through to our food chain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    I have to say that I am very dubious about this survey applying to EVERY family in the UK if the measure taken in household waste. If you include shop waste plus "waste" at producer level then perhaps. Some sort of survey was done a few years ago locally which came up with something similar but things like orange peel, apple core, cabbage stalk etc counted as food thrown away. Define waste!

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    5. bakuboy

    I don't think people queue at Food Banks because there is a shortage of food.

    They queue because there is social and economic disparity.

    Food wastage is across all parts of society, rich and poor.

    But, I still don't see the problem other that the morality of wastage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    Six meals a week' thrown away by Britons! Sorry speak for yourself I'm British and I don't throw away food, I cant afford to because all my money goes on Energy Bills...

    To the supermarkets > Do something about the senseless packaging you use, you use to much plastics you should feel ashamed! Why for example to do feel a need to wrap pears in a plastic carton its outrageous

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    Who is throwing all this food away? Surely not the millions now living hand-to-mouth thanks to the death by a million cuts of Lord Snooty and co.

  • Comment number 169.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    One problem is that people tend to do one supermarket shop per week. Look at the best before dates on food you purchase. Much of that (at the front of the shelf) is one or two days away. kept in a fridge, it's quite ok to eat a couple of days after, instead of slinging it and boosting the supermarket's profits by buying replacements. My freezer is full of casserole leftovers, just enough for two.

  • Comment number 167.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    I'll throw away what I want, and when I want.

    If I ate all the food that I bought, then I would be a great big fat gluttenous pig that would certainly require a gastric bypass in the years to come, costing the NHS many thousands of pounds.

    So please, can the tory government please stay out of my business. I pay tax so the eastern european binmen can pick up my trash.

    End of story.

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.


    Why don't you send me your address and I can drop my food peelings and rubbish in your bed, after all I've paid for it so I can decide what to do with it.
    Without my permission you'd be breaking the law. I did not advocate breaking the law. Your analogy is simply false.

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    Food wastage committed by Supermarkets and big farms dwarfs any food wastage in the home. The entire system is at fault, not individual consumers.

    Most people don't have time or energy to waste on 'using the whole buffalo', it is simply not worth it from a cost/benefit perspective.

    I'd rather be doing almost anything than slaving away in the kitchen for an hour just to save a few quid.

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    We like courgettes but our local supermarket sells them in packs of 3 large ones. There's only twofold us in our household and there's only so many courgettes we can eat in a week. I get really .. annoyed that the supermarket...."

    Courgette soup. It's the biz
    Here's a perfectly good and simple recipe

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    138. Sue60n
    I get really quite annoyed that the supermarket is determining what quantities of fresh food we have to buy


    They would not sell them like that if you and others did not buy them like that.

    In the age where shaving off a few seconds of time people pay over the odds for pre-packed fruit&veg
    Take bananas loose=68p per kilo wrapped 5 bananas 780 grams=£1
    need I say more?

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    How on earth do they know people throw 6 meals away a week. I don't. The sooner they get rid of the SELL BY DATE on food the better. Supermarkets have to throw away mountains of food a week just to cover themselves. Young people today will not eat it if its just one day over.

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    Strangely, I suspect a lot of the less intelligent folks don't throw food away as they only eat burgers and pizza and never cook.

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    Yup too many people shopping at Tesco.

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    Food Wastage is simply down to lack of discipline. Amazing how people can blame Supermarkets, Govt and everybody else... Buy what you need and eat what you buy. It is not very difficult.


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