U.K. retailers on food waste reduction drive for 2014
U.K. supermarkets are gearing up for 2014's European year against food waste with a number of measures to help prevent consumers from needlessly throwing away produce.
The country's fourth-largest retailer Morrisons has removed its 'best before' dates on fruit and vegetables, urging customers to assess produce quality themselves rather than be unduly influenced by the label.
Morrisons media relations officer George Kotschy, said the supermarket chain believed this would help "reduce unecessary" waste.
"We are communicating with customers on food waste in new ways this year and we are also taking action across our operations to reduce food waste."
He said the chain's stores will reduce the price of products before they reach the end of their shelf life or use the food in the company's own staff canteens.
Morrisons and Marks & Spencer have teamed up with the national food charity FareShare, which work with suppliers to redistribute any surplus food to a community-based network of organisations working with vulnerable people.
This year Morrisons started working with Company Shop, which buys and sells own-branded food that suppliers have manufactured but exceeds requirements.
"Products with incorrect labeling, damaged cases, or packaging design issues are collected under a carefully controlled process from suppliers by Company Shop. Stock is then sold at a discounted price through the company shops or businesses in food retail," said Kotschy.
He added Morrisons used smart packaging to prolong fresh produce shelf life, as does Marks & Spencer with palladium paper in strawberry and soft fruit punnets, absorbing the fruit decaying chemical ethylene and extending shelf life by two days.
Marks & Spencer's food product PR manager Liz Williams, said the chain was currently exploring the use of this type of packaging for use in other areas.
The Co-operative is about to announce new packaging to extend the lifespan of onions, and currently has consumer storage instructions printed on loose fruit and vegetable produce bags detailing the optimum conditions for maintaining freshness.
European Commission (EC) data reveals 50% of food is wasted in the European Union, amounting to 89 metric tons (MT) per year and 179 kilograms per capita with this figure set to rise to 126MT in 2020.
In January, the European Parliament called on member states to improve food supply efficiency and consumption chains proposing 2014 as the year against food waste.
The EC estimates that households account for 42% of food wastage, manufacturers 39%, the catering industry 14% and retailers around 5% within the European Union.
U.K.-based Waste Reduction Action Plan (WRAP) estimated around 40% of U.K. households are responsible for food waste.
Photo: Fotolia, Sascha Burkard