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 277.

    First & foremost we should focus on the huge amount of money the government waste. Surely food waste is a minor issue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 276.

    "Peter Buck
    If I have bought food, paying good money for it, surely it is up to me what I do with it"

    Quite right. Just don't go on about how expensive domestic energy is (or anything else for that matter) if you choose to waste money on food you don't eat.

  • rate this

    Comment number 275.

    "250.uʍop ǝpısdn

    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."

    Which groups of people use mindless prejudices to make groundless meaningless stereotypes?

    Do idiots? Probably.

    Ever seen what gets thrown on the ground around a McDonalds? Think it's the wealthy eating there?

  • rate this

    Comment number 274.

    The answer:

    Shop regularly (usually implies locally) for smaller quantities.
    Buy loose produce instead of pre-packaged.
    Treat sell-buy dates with healthy scepticism.

    Sadly, that just doesn't fit with most people's lifestyle choices - massive weekly shops involving a drive to an out-of-town supermarket or, increasingly, online.

  • rate this

    Comment number 273.

    240. JackMaxDaniels "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,"

    Whose fault is that? Why not check the list of ingredients before buying? It's written on the pack so you can avoid buying stuff you don't like.

  • rate this

    Comment number 272.

    Super market ready meals is the main reason for this. If people cook their own food we hardly ever cook above our requirement. It also will save money and its healthier than preservative added ready meals. I agree for some people there is a Genuine lack of time to cook. But for most of us its just laziness stopping us from cooking our own food.

  • rate this

    Comment number 271.

    Buy 3 get the 4th free. Or half price. diddly do dah.

  • rate this

    Comment number 270.

    Great a BBC HYS important story to really get my teeth into, or maybe just throw away?

  • rate this

    Comment number 269.

    Umm, people buying too much food and ending up throwing it away eh? Tell you what, why don't we put an "anti waste" levy on food like we do with energy to discourage usage. That'll work, won't it? No? You don't think so?
    Shows the madness of forcing behaviour change through taxation. Mind you; won't stop the authoritarian left and the eco-fascists; watch the BBC for the first food levy proposals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 268.

    No surprise. We have become a throw away society - following the footsteps of our American friends. Obesity, lack of social responsibility, greed, waste, tax evasion and avoidance and a poorly managed NHS have become the hallmarks of our broken society. Cameron has failed in this regard on a huge scale.

  • rate this

    Comment number 267.

    Half the trouble is the way things are priced. Everyone is encouraged to bulk buy
    Supermarkets price things in such a way we are offered 1 thing for a £1, or 2 for £1.50. Just to increase turnover. Make bigger profits
    They could sell the item at 75p. But of course turnover would be smaller & so would profits
    Of course the other half of the problem is down to ordinary people, the way they/we shop

  • rate this

    Comment number 266.

    Its a pain that people like myself constantly have to compensate for the irresponsibility of others. Waste is a huge issue, not only is it unethical it also distorts the true amount of energy that the UK needs to produce, we are about to embark on a nuclear energy programme we don't need, look at the facts. It all adds to the environmental disaster we're already in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 265.

    254. Sixp

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

    The employ a lot of people and judging by their sales figures and real estate they are meeting the demands of the market.

    Nobody has answered my question in 239 and I am genuinely interested.

  • rate this

    Comment number 264.

    Why do people keep saying that buying food from a market is better? There are a more cases of hepatitis C contaminated fruit and veg found in market bought products than supermarket bought products. This is because markets buy from suppliers who slip under the radar of regulators and use sewage water to irrigate crops.

  • rate this

    Comment number 263.

    I wonder if the PUBLICLY-FUNDED recycling group the Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap) would be out of a job if everyone stopped wasting some of their food! Probably not!

  • rate this

    Comment number 262.

    14 Minutes ago
    Try thinly cooked courgette when still hot mix with Rocket Lemon Juice and Olive oil amazing. A bag of rocket is only 69p in Lidl and still leave enough for another meal. :)


    Thanks for the tip Bev. Reminds me of an old saying my Grandad used to have:
    "Never throw away a good courgette unless you absolutely have to. But really try not to."

  • rate this

    Comment number 261.

    Ban B.O.G.O.F and other like offers, No prepared cheese,ham etc.sell ALL fruit and Veg by weight..Offering Fruit/Veg at £1 a bowl with showing the price [by Lb/Kl ] is a con ,and i'm sure it against the law.

  • rate this

    Comment number 260.


    Food requires lots of water, Africa is short of water, food exports export masses of water, while African water resources decline.
    Energy to produce food, food/energy for human Labour, packaging materials, loads of transport energy & energy of workers down the lines & even in stores.

    Waste, is destructive, so is being so ignorant of it & having stupid mentality

  • rate this

    Comment number 259.

    146. AnnoyedCS "Providing food to chickens that has been in the kitchen is illegal". I couldn't believe this but it is apparently true. Symptomatic of all that is wrong with food production - you can't use kitchen waste to feed to your own chickens because your food might contain an "exotic disease",because it might have been flown thousands of miles to your kitchen. Eat local. Produce your own.

  • rate this

    Comment number 258.

    231.Agree. As Gov "meetings" held have food/wine at same time [TV program} its no wonder daft decisions are made. Look at expenses claims for electricity alone, £6000. We put heating on twice day for hour/extra jumpers. They must have it on all day even when in parliament, only live in 2nd home for 4 days wk.Regards waste food look at example of TV cook program where have to have perfect fd.


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