Food waste is costing households up to £730 a year as retailers take steps to help customers reduce waste as much as they can, but “more needs to be done,” a recent survey has found.
According to WRAP’s latest Retail Survey actions are being taken on how food is labelled by retailers and brands to assist people avoid food waste happening at home.
However, the climate action NGO also warns that more needs to be done to help curb the impact the UK’s food waste is having on climate change.
The survey assessed practices across the eleven major UK supermarkets, scoring their actions against best practice guidance developed in association with the Food Standards Agency and Defra.
It then went on to review progress made since the NGO’s last assessment in 2019 and suggest changes, which it estimates could reduce household food waste by at least 350,000 tonnes per year, if fully implemented.
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Specific focus was given to dates on labels, ‘open life’ (best within X days of opening), storage advice, freezing and defrosting – important prompts that help people keep what they’ve bought in the best possible condition, and use as much of the food they buy as possible.
Since 2019, WRAP has called for the removal of consumer-facing date labels on most uncut fresh produce. However, the latest 2021 Retail Survey – a snapshot between August 2021 and March 2022 – showed that the amount of produce without a date label decreased.
“With cost-of-living and food prices rising, it’s never been more important to help people avoid costly food waste, which for many families can top £730 a year,” director of collaboration and change at WRAP, Catherine David said.
She added: “How food is sold and labelled can have a huge influence in helping people better manage food at home. Excellent progress has been made in some areas while there is still lots of work to be done elsewhere.
“WRAP will continue to work with retailers to push these changes forward and will be conducting regular Retail Surveys to more closely monitor change.”
Food Standards Agency CEO, Emily Miles, added: “We work closely with WRAP to encourage businesses to use the appropriate date labels and storage advice on food products, so people can make informed choices when shopping for their food.
“A best before date is about quality which means the food will be safe to eat after this date, even if it’s not at its best. It isn’t necessary to have a best before date on certain products like fresh fruit. Use-by dates are important and only used for food which could become unsafe.”
Director of food & sustainability at the BRC, Andrew Opie said: “Retailers understand the importance of helping customers to cut their food waste at homes, saving households money and supporting them to cut waste and carbon emissions.
“Supermarkets have collectively made good progress, for example, many grocers have begun removing ‘Best Before’ dates from uncut fresh produce and have improved storage, freezing and defrosting advice.
“Together with WRAP’s Plastics Pact initiative, retailers are delivering the collective efforts needed to help UK consumers and the wider environment.”