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Food waste

The food industry is making good progress helping customers reduce food waste but there remains substantial room for improvement, according to fresh research from Wrap.

Manufacturers and retailers are making smaller pack sizes, clearer date labelling and improved storage and freezing guidance available to help reduce the £12bn of food wasted by consumers a year.

But more needs to be done, said Wrap.

Wrap design and waste prevention director, Richard Swannell, said: “The steps retailers and manufacturers have been taking have made an important contribution towards helping reduce the amount of food we buy and waste.”

“We know from our research into food waste that the amount we’re throwing away every year has fallen – but we’re still wasting enough food to fill Wembley Stadium nine times. There is still more we could all do to reduce waste – and save money in these hard-pressed times - and the food industry can help us.”

Wrap’s Retailer Survey 2012 findings included:

  • Increased availability of smaller packs of potatoes, milk, cooking sauces, bread and bread rolls.
  • Nearly half of all packs (47%) are now re-closable. And 73% of rice packs are now re-closable compared to 44% in 2010.
  • 96% of all products surveyed carried storage guidance, helping consumers keep food fresher for longer.
  • New labelling being rolled out by retailers including Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, and now Waitrose, makes it clear consumers don’t have to freeze goods on the day of purchase, but can do so any time up to the ‘use by’ date.
  • The use of ‘display until’ dates has fallen dramatically with less than a third of surveyed products carrying this. No ‘sell by’ dates were found on any of the products. Retailers are also finding new ways to make the important ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates easier to read.

Swanell said: “There are areas where we think retailers could continue to make improvements – for example, by removing ‘display until’ dates, increasing consistency of ‘use by’ or ‘best before’ date use and ensuring that consumers are given as long as possible to make use of the food (shelf-life). Increasing the proportion of products that carry freezing and defrosting guidance and the use of ‘freeze before date mark’ label could also make a big difference.“

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