1 in 2 Aussie shoppers want food retailers to stop wastage

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 10th September 2019

Aussie shoppers have spoken: new data reveals that more than half of us aren’t happy about wastage across our supermarkets – particularly the overuse of plastic packaging and discarded imperfect produce. A leading food safety organisation has weighed in, agreeing that wastage should be reduced where possible, but that one of these practices increases the safety of the foods that are sold to us. 

The survey of an independent panel of 1008 Australian adult respondents was conducted by SAI Global, a global risk management provider that has audited thousands of food retailers and manufacturers – 550 in 2018 alone – to ensure they comply with food industry regulations. It also trains thousands of Australians annually on food safety through its tailored training, public courses and webinars.

53 per cent want retailers to stop the overuse of plastic packaging

Survey respondents were asked about plastic packaging across our supermarkets: 53 per cent said there is too much plastic packaging and they want the practice stopped.

However, it seems more young people appreciate the convenience of plastic packaging. The survey revealed that the older the shopper, the more they wanted the overuse of plastic packaging to be stopped. Sixty-three (63) per cent over-65s want less prolific plastic packaging across our supermarkets, compared with 58 per cent of 55-64-year-olds, 52 per cent of 35-54s, 49 per cent of 25-34s and 39 per cent of 18-24s.

Too much plastic packaging is also a practice that a higher proportion of ACT shoppers would like to see an end to – 73 per cent, compared with just 48 per cent of Victorian residents.

39 per cent of us want supermarkets to accept imperfect produce

The survey also revealed that 39 per cent of Aussies want retailers to stop rejecting produce that is out of specification for cosmetic reasons, if it leads to the produce being thrown away.

Interestingly, younger shoppers are more irked by this practice than older shoppers. Forty-three (43) per cent of 18-34-year-olds want supermarkets to stop this practice, compared with 39 per cent of 35-54s, 37 per cent of 55-64s, and 35 per cent of over-65s.

ACT residents feel the strongest about food wastage than residents in any other state: 60 per cent of ACT residents would like the practice stopped, compared with just 38 per cent of NSW residents.

Andrew Nash, food safety expert at SAI Global, says: “We agree that any overuse of plastics is unfortunate and should be reduced where possible. However, unbeknownst to many shoppers supermarkets use plastic for food safety purposes.

“Plastic is effective in protecting high risk foods, such as meat and dairy, from contamination through the millions of pathogens and microorganisms in the environment. Plastic, particularly if it’s shrink-wrapped, also helps prevent food from oxidising and spoiling quickly, and it is a good protectant from chemicals in the atmosphere. Dozens of people are likely to handle our foods through the entire supply chain process – including other shoppers. Supermarkets need to reduce the risks of cross-contamination. 

“Plastic also assists to reduce food wastage by providing an extra layer of protection. For example, English cucumbers have a particularly thin skin and the tight plastic wrapping helps them to last longer in the fridge by acting as an insulator to protect against cold injury and also slows dehydration and spoilage.”

However, when it comes to misshapen produce, Andrew adds: “Shoppers should be happy to know that produce that is not in perfect shape or size presents no food safety issues. It is encouraging to see that Coles this year has announced it will begin selling ‘ugly’ fruit and vegetables in the war against waste, with trials having already commenced in Victoria and South Australia.”

Woolworths began a similar initiative in 2014 with its Odd Bunch campaign. Under this campaign, ugly produce is sold at reduced prices, and was the first of its kind in Australia.

Percentage of Aussies in different states that would like to see a stop to certain food retailer practices:

Percentage of Aussies in different age groups that would like to see a stop to certain food retailer practices: