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 257.

    Invent food replicators, the science bit it is it rearranges hydrogen molecules and turns it into food (or that's what us trekkies are lead to believe). It would end food waste, hunger etc

  • rate this

    Comment number 256.

    If I have bought food, paying good money for it, surely it is up to me what I do with it. It is my choice to do with as I please, push it down my throat and add to my waist line, or bypass that processing and just bung it in the bin, it doesn't matter. It is my choice!!
    (Surely there are more interesting subjects we should be commenting upon!).

  • rate this

    Comment number 255.

    It's all about simple planning and common sense. If we have too much meat that's about to go off then I make a double load and I have it for lunch the next day. There is no excuse for someone to be wasting that much every day. Also, Supermarkets refuse "ugly" fruit and veg, but it is our fault because if we bought ugly fruit then they wouldn't refuse it from the farmers would they?

  • rate this

    Comment number 254.

    Food production is now almost entirely geared to the drive for Supermarket profit.

    Large packs of plastic wrapped food with short shelf life.

    Use your local retail markets and buy smaller amounts of fresh food, much cheaper and lasts a lot longer.

    Supermarkets are becoming like the big six in energy, too much power, too much profit and not meeting the needs of the consumer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 253.

    Buy it, cook it and freeze it. I really fail to see the problem? You can freeze dairy and bread as well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 252.

    I love the people who " don't want the authorities telling me what to do" Of course you don't because you might learn something and your brain might explode.

  • rate this

    Comment number 251.


    'Most of the "food" I have thrown away is not fit to eat.
    Meat Injected with water, Cereals full of sugar, Cakes with palm oil and soya, Pastries with icing, already rotten and bruised fruit.'

    Why did you buy it? The odd fruit can slip past (and bad oranges can look fine) but the you could have read the ingredients for the cereals and cakes and seen the icing on the pastry.

  • rate this

    Comment number 250.

    Why doesn't the report say which groups of society throw food away?

    Do the poor? Probably not.

    Do the wealthy or reasonably well off? Probably.

    Interesting to note the BBC's choice of discussion subjects - yet again we plebs can't comment on subjects that really matter.

  • rate this

    Comment number 249.

    224 - I agree completely. All this rubbish the BBC constantly shows about people saying its food or heating. Utter rot.

    If you're poor, buy food from a market, much cheaper and healthier than the takeaways they seem to eat all the time. Oh, but that takes time to prepare and everyone's too 'busy' watching X Factor to cook.

    This country needs to get a grip.

  • rate this

    Comment number 248.

    Time for the public to take responsibility for their actions, rather than using their right to blame it on someone else. Even with a 3-year-old and two 1-year-olds, we only occasionally fill more than one small food waste bin per week. They are gannets though!

  • rate this

    Comment number 247.

    31. Asbothecat "Supermarkets refuse nearly 50% of all fruit and vegetables sent to them by farmers because they are not pretty enough"

    If true (which I doubt) then it is because fickle consumers won't buy ugly fruit and veg. Supermarkets are hardly in the business of spiting farmers by refusing to buy perfectly marketable food, are they?

  • rate this

    Comment number 246.

    Its easy to blame families, and perhaps thats partly true. But, the supermarkets packaged salads last maybe a day or 2. Cooked chickens are eat on day of purchase, despite being ok for 2 days in the fridge. etc. So perhaps we should look at how food produce is packaged and labelled rather than just pointing fingers at consumers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 245.

    Wow, that's an amazing statistic. I can't remember the last time I threw food away. I keep a close eye on use by dates and usually plan my meals for the next 2-3 days in advance. I buy plenty of vacuum packed, tinned and frozen food too so after I've finished the fresh food I've bought I still have lots to choose from.

  • rate this

    Comment number 244.

    @232 Chezza
    "Because supermarkets sell 3 for the price of 2 to cynically drive up their profits"
    No they don't, profit margins are very low; they do it to increase turnover. We canny shoppers know this and make the most of these offers. There is very little food wasted in our house...
    PS - businesses rely on profit, why is this cynical?

  • Comment number 243.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 242.

    Could the food not be processed into some kind of cake like pelican or whatever its called, kind of like soylent-green and given out to the poor or benefit-starved ? as a dietary supplement. stopping the waste and helping the poor at the same time. after all its all protein. and it could be zapped with radiation to kill of any bugs and preserve it, R. Falcon Scott ate it one of our greats why not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 241.

    I try not waste food but it happens occasionally because I do not have time to shop numerous times each week or rummage through the fridge to check all the dates before making a meal. Oh and "the government are clobbering" those who work hard enough to pay a large tax bill in order to fund the utility bills of those who have not worked as hard or have chosen to retire many years before I will !

  • rate this

    Comment number 240.

    Most of the "food" I have thrown away is not fit to eat.

    Meat Injected with water, Cereals full of sugar, Cakes with palm oil and soya, Pastries with icing, already rotten and bruised fruit.

    Almond cakes should not contain about 50 different ingredients, most of which are not food.

    I've not seen the media - this includes the BBC - hold government or big business to account for decades.

  • rate this

    Comment number 239.

    Can someone please tell me what national or global, Social and Economic problems individual household food wastage causes?

    It creates:-

    A recyling industry, jobs etc.
    Uses for waste food
    More revenue for the food industry supply chain, jobs etc.

    It affects the individuals pocket and how people spend their money is up to them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 238.

    It's not so much households thow food away. More like supermarkets throw away enough for a % of households to have six meals a week


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