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Christmas food buying surge led to waste

Supermarkets are still encouraging shoppers in the UK to buy more food than necessary, according to a public survey.

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers carried out the survey of 2,023 people, of which 70% said supermarkets urged them to increase the amount of food they were buying over the Christmas period. A further 45% admitted to buying more as a result.

Those polled, said buy-one-get-one-free offers (72%) and half-price promotions (70%) were the main methods used by supermarkets to increase buying.

More than a third cited discounts such as vouchers, ‘money off single items’ and loyalty card offers as other routes to attract more spending.

A fifth of the people polled wasted or threw away more than 10% of the food they bought over the festive period

The survey also found that older people throw less away, with 45% of over-65s saying they do not waste any food during Christmas and New Year. But just 34% of 18-24 year-olds said the same.

Dr Tim Fox, head of energy and environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said: “There are various reasons why around a third to a half of all food produced in the world never reaches a human stomach, and while it would be wrong to lay all of the blame for waste with the supermarkets, deals like buy-one-get-one-free, ‘half price’ offers and various other price discounting methods do exacerbate the problem.”

The survey comes one year after the institution published its ‘Global Food; Waste Not, Want Not’ report, which estimated that 30-50% of all food produced around the world never reaches a human stomach.  

Discounts by retailers, confusion regarding date labelling and perceptions of consumer demand for cosmetically perfect produce among the reasons cited for food waste.

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