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 757.

    Vegetables throwing away food.

    What next the Beano as a literary classic and a Big Mac meal s a gourmet dining experience?

    Sadly that seems to be case with oh so many, but they are happy and baaing along nicely

  • rate this

    Comment number 756.

    754 Dean Maisey. I'd ask you round for a casserole and dumplings to feed you up. Your post made me feel a bit sad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 755.

    754.Dean Maisey
    I live alone and I cook everything I eat from scratch. I always make several portions and freeze them, when I get home from work I can put something hot and nutritious on the plate very quickly. - I can eat for a whole week from one chicken, some veggies, some stock and a curry sauce.

    == My god, that sounds a nightmare !

  • rate this

    Comment number 754.

    I live alone and I cook everything I eat from scratch. I always make several portions and freeze them, then when I get home from work I can put something hot and nutritious on the plate very quickly - no ready meals here. People also need to learn how to cook - I can eat for a whole week from one chicken, some veggies, some stock and a curry sauce.

  • rate this

    Comment number 753.

    £60 a month is three quarters of my budget and I certainly don't throw much away. Best before dates, check them in the supermarket to be sure it is in date otherwise ignore at home, use the freezer for left overs (not often in my case but ...) and eat it up. I can't afford to throw food away at that rate!

  • rate this

    Comment number 752.

    Some 86 million chickens were said to be discarded a year. How do they know?

    Anyway, I agree with others here - it's the supermarkets that cause the most waste plus demanding ludicrous perfection in the look of fruit and vegetables from growers. Even if I wanted to buy odd looking fruit and veg it's hardly found in most shops because wholesalers won't carry or supply it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 751.

    Basically its about a lack of planning. Planning what the family are going to eat in advance, making a shopping list and sticking to it. Buying and cooking amounts of food which are appropriate for the number of people to be fed. Keeping control of what you have bought and using it before it deteriorates. Easy to say, it does require effort to do, but it results in good meals and less cost.

  • rate this

    Comment number 750.

    Another fact I am fed up with is that you hardly see any other countries (particularly when you look down from a jet) with a vast fertile land that literally grows nothing but grass. While people have a poor rang (and a poor quality) of selection of their foods being sold with ridiculous prices for a tiny portion packed in a large plastic container...

  • rate this

    Comment number 749.


    Buying bigger quantitys even for 1 or 2 people is easy & cheaper. A big pork joint, just cut it into useable portions & freeze, same with mince, buy a big pack, cheaper, then split it up & freeze it. Even cook bigger quantitys & freeze some of it, then you have easy ready meals & know the ingredients. Blanch veg & freeze.

    Its all very simples & little actual effort

  • rate this

    Comment number 748.

    711. Seqenenre

    That's a shocking comment.

    The farmers are forced to put the food beyond use, because if the slightly misshapen or blemished food were sold cheaply that would undercut the profits of local retailers. Also the reason there are still starving people in the region is because the best farmland that was once used for subsistence farming is now used for cash crops to feed us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 747.

    Buy a little and buy often is a good plan, especially since you buy what you need when you need it. Getting it from the local market is an extra bonus, since it supports the community and you can be more confident that you're getting good value!

  • rate this

    Comment number 746.

    So much happening worth a debate, but BBC choses to give us this inane topic to chit-chat about.... zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  • rate this

    Comment number 745.

    I don't understand people complaining about only being able to buy fruit and veg in large multipacks, the last time I checked it was cheaper to buy it loose and you can then only buy what you need!

  • rate this

    Comment number 744.

    Thanks BBC for publishing an article that tars all Britons with the same brush.

    Just for the record, my family and I do not waste food. I, like many others, was brought up in an era when food was short and ready-meals were unheard of.

  • Comment number 743.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 742.

    You cann't blame people throwing away of their foods into bin when you get food like this?

    or for a close-up look

  • rate this

    Comment number 741.

    Supermarkets failing is that their size and distribution network is not suited to fresh produce, thus prices are high (wastage, distribution costs, short shelf life, high storage costs) but they do processed, packaged, long life food very well. Most of us shop at Supermarkets and thus eat processed, and packaged food. Fresh food should be the domain of small retailers they are better suited to it

  • rate this

    Comment number 740.

    .. greedy rich people are doing rather well out of the recession, so much so they can throw away essentials
    ..the coalition are condemning the poor saying we are wasting food
    Make your minds up please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 739.

    32. dhendren1
    I buy in bulk, then cook in bulk and freeze. That way I always have several ready meals to hand. Just needs a bit of thought, particularly for people living alone as I do.

    Err, a bit more than "thought". It also requires 'making an effort', which many people are simply far too lazy to do, despite their many pathetic excuses - such as "But I'm too heavy to get off the sofa!"

  • rate this

    Comment number 738.

    An idea would be to type on all food products in big letters ( so the poor can easily understand) a number of recipes that can include otherwise wasted food. In the long term we need an educational programme, starting with young girls, on how to get the most out of our food products.


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