Food labelling, shelf-life are top waste priorities

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

4.2Mt of consumable household food, worth £12.5bn, was still being wasted in 2012, said WRAP
4.2Mt of consumable household food, worth £12.5bn, was still being wasted in 2012, said WRAP
Clearer food labelling, longer product shelf-life and more work on fish and meat are opportunities for the food industry to drive down domestic food waste further.

That’s according to a report covering 2012 published today by the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), a body that has worked with the food industry on the issue for years.

“There is still more to be done with clearer labels on products as just under half of avoidable food and drink (worth £5.6bn) was classified as ‘not used in time’,”​ said WRAP, in a report summary. “Clearer date labels, storage advice and freezing guidance could help reduce this.

“Giving people longer to eat what they buy, through longer shelf-lives could also make a big difference.”

WRAP highlighted that, despite a reduction in domestic food waste of 1.3Mt in 2012, the amount of meat and fish thrown away by consumers had not changed in the past five years. It claimed shoppers were binning 86M chickens annually, for example.

Clearer freezing and defrosting guidance and smaller pack sizes for fresh or frozen chicken would help, it claimed.

Bread, meat, potatoes

Bread, potatoes and milk were the top three foods Britons wasted at home daily in 2012, according to WRAP. Its report claimed 24M slices of bread; 5.8M potatoes and 5.9M glasses of milk were scrapped daily.

A total of 4.2Mt of food that could have been eaten at home was still being wasted, worth £12.5bn and it aimed to cut that figure by a further 1.7Mt by 2025, it stated. WRAP ceo Dr Liz Goodwin called for a “major combined effort” ​from industry, governments and consumers to achieve that.

“Research by WRAP shows that if we all make a combined effort to act now, we can save up to £45bn by 2025,”​ she said. “It won’t be easy, but what a prize if we achieve it.”

However, although there was clearly more to be done, there had been a 21% reduction in domestic food waste in 2012, saving shoppers £13bn, WRAP said.

According to its report, Household Food and Drink Waste in the UK 2012​, in addition to greater awareness of the problem within UK households, the food industry had also contributed to this reduction.

Warburtons and ABF introduced smaller loaves; Müller Dairy reduced the size of Müller Rice pots from 190g to 95g and Unilever’s tie-up with the Love Food Hate Waste campaign had helped, said WRAP.

Industry labelling initiatives

Industry labelling initiatives, such as removing ‘display until’ from products, making it easier to see more important ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ dates, had also contributed.

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF), which represents food and drink manufacturers, said its members had made significant progress on pack design and improved information on product use and storage.

“As manufacturers, we want our products to be used and enjoyed,”​ said FDF sustainability director Andrew Kuyk. “We are strong supporters of WRAP’s Love Food Hate Waste campaign and helped develop its Fresher for Longer initiative.

“We are working hard with retailers and other supply chain partners to do what we can – substantial progress is being made, but we all have a lot more to do.”

Trade body Dairy UK welcomed the news that the amount of avoidable domestic dairy food waste had fallen by 21% since 2007.

‘Improvements in processing techniques’

“We have been working hard to help consumers to reduce food waste, through improvements in processing techniques, packaging innovations and reviewing labelling on packs,”​ said ceo Dr Judith Bryans.

Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability for retail trade body the British Retail Consortium, said: “WRAP is right to highlight that combined efforts and effective partnership working will be key to delivering further reductions.

“Retailers accept that challenge and have recently committed to working with food manufacturers to cut total household food waste by a further 5% by 2015.”

On the retail side, Sainsbury ran ‘Food Goes Further’ and ‘Make the Most of Your Roast’ campaigns with TV advertising and free recipes in stores to inspire shoppers to use leftovers creatively.

The Co-operative Group showed Love Food, Hate Waste messages and advice on till screens and Morrisons ran a Great Taste Less Waste campaign.

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