Retailers relaxing their quality standards and starting selling more “wonky vegetables” are among the recommendations MPs have made to cut back on the massive amounts of food waste in the UK every year.
A report by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee (EFRA) said more than 10m tonnes of food is thrown away in British households every year and that 60% of the waste could be avoided.
The government should consider forcing food businesses and retailers to separate food waste for collection, starting off by applying new rules to businesses that produce more than 50kg of food waste per week and then applying these to smaller businesses.
Retailers were told that not enough is being done to redistribute surplus food.
“We welcome the will shown by retailers to redistribute surplus food. However... there is a huge amount of surplus food that is currently not being redistributed,” said the report.
Manufacturers were failing to sign up to voluntary waste reduction targets set by the Courtauld Commitment and MPs called for more enforcement measures to be taken by the government.
The report said in the hospitality industry 30% of waste was made up of food thrown away from customers’ plates, and the three most discarded items were chips, bread rolls and coleslaw. The equivalent of one in six meals served in the UK is wasted, it has been estimated.
Tesco was praised for publishing food waste data from across its supply chain, while Sainsbury’s was said to be moving in the right direction, although needing more transparency.
However, the committee added: “The fact that no other retailers have followed their lead shows that a voluntary approach is inadequate.
“We recommend that the incoming government requires food businesses over a particular size to publicly report data on food waste. This would create much more transparency.”
And while WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) was achieving good results, funding for the charity had been cut by Defra over recent years.
MPs urged the government to provide the charity with sufficient funding alongside investment from other sources so that it would have resources to maintain its food waste reduction programmes.
And retailers were urged to work with WRAP to develop a consistent method of reporting on waste reduction.
The committee recommended that the government continues the review looking at whether there is a need for “best before” dates on food with WRAP and the Food Standards Agency with a view to issuing guidance to industry by the end of 2017.
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