Food wastage out of control

Posted by Isobel Drake on 16th May 2008

The cost of needlessly wasted food to UK households is £10 billion a year, £2 billion higher than previously estimated, according to new research published by not-for-profit organisation WRAP.

The research gives detailed new insights into the nature and amount of food waste thrown away in the UK and is believed to be the most comprehensive study of its kind. It reveals that the average household throws out £420 of good food a year. For the average family with children it’s higher at £610 – money which could have helped pay household bills.

Researchers found that more than half the good food thrown out, worth £6 billion a year, is bought and simply left unused or untouched. For example, each day 1.3 million unopened yoghurt pots, 5,500 whole chickens and 440,000 ready meals are thrown away in the UK. The study revealed that £1 billion worth of wasted food is still “in date”. It costs local authorities £1 billion a year to dispose of food waste.

Upon launching the report ‘The Food We Waste’ Liz Goodwin, Chief Executive of WRAP, described the findings as “shocking”.

“Food waste has a significant environmental impact,” she said. “This research confirms that it is an issue for us all, whether as consumers, retailers, local or central government. I believe it will spark a major debate about the way food is packaged, sold, stored at home, cooked and then collected when it is thrown out.”

“What shocked me the most was the cost of our food waste at a time of rising food bills, and generally a tighter pull on our purse strings. It highlights that this is an economic and social issue, as well as about how much we understand the value of our food.”

British Environment Minister Joan Ruddock was also concerned by the report. “These findings are staggering in their own right, but at a time when global food shortages are in the headlines this kind of wastefulness becomes even more shocking,” she stated. “This is costing consumers three times over. Not only do they pay hard-earned money for food they don’t eat, there is also the cost of dealing with the waste this creates.”

In the wake of the findings, debate is likely to be ignited about serving sizes, packaging and how food is sold to consumers.