Retailers make 'good progress' slashing £14.9bn food waste bill

5th November 2019


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  • Food and drink ,
  • Retail and wholesale ,
  • Waste ,
  • Sustainability

Author

Carlos Felipe Gaitan-Mejia

UK retailers have made good progress following best-practice guidance on date labels, product life, pack size, and storage advice for groceries, an investigation by WRAP has uncovered.

After visiting nearly 60 retailers and examining 2,000 products, the researchers found that the shelf life for milk has increased by 1.5 days over the last year, potentially cutting 20,000 tonnes of waste annually.

A quarter of all pre-packaged and unprepared fresh produce now carries no date label, while three retailers have removed 'best before' guidance from some of their fresh products.

There has also been a significant increase in use of the snowflake label advising customers to freeze products, rising from 15% to 50%, and doubling to 79% for bread items.

WRAP said that around a fifth of food brought in to UK homes ends up as waste, and that this is estimated to have a retail value of £14.9bn.

“The way food and drink is packaged, labelled and priced can influence household food waste, and retailers are uniquely placed to help minimise food waste in the home,“ said WRAP director, Peter Maddox.

“Overall, we've seen good progress from all, but we have also been very clear with each company where more work is required and where they are falling short.“

WRAP published the findings alongside new guidance for fresh, uncut fruit and vegetables, co-produced by the Foods Standards Agency and the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.

Despite some good progress, it was also found that retailers are failing to remove 'open life' guidance that tells customers to eat a product within a certain time after opening it.

A whopping 90% of hard cheese block cheddar packs carried advice to use within five or seven days of opening, despite having an average available life of 64 days.

It was also found that bagged salads typically have open-life advice of just one day, which WRAP described as “very conservative“, while 10% of 2.5kg bagged white potato had less than two days available product life.

And while small packs of bread – 400g loaves – were found in two-thirds of stores, they were on average 74% more expensive per kg than 800g loaves.

WRAP said it also wants the phrase “freeze on day of purchase“ dropped as it can lead people to throw away good food, instead of freezing it up until the acceptable date.

“Public concern has grown over plastic packaging since our last survey, particularly around fresh produce, and we have updated our guide to address single use, problematic plastics in this category,“ Maddox continued.

“Removal of packaging must be done carefully to avoid food waste, and we now have a clear set of principles that will help limit plastic use, and ensure removal is done in a safe and sustainable way.“

Image credit: ©iStock

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