Food manufacturers cause ‘bulk of food waste’

By John Wood

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food waste Food manufacturing sector Anaerobic digestion Industry Food

Food manufacturers are responsible for 'the bulk of food waste', a charity has claimed
Food manufacturers are responsible for 'the bulk of food waste', a charity has claimed
The food manufacturing sector is responsible for the bulk of edible food that is wasted in the UK, according to a leading food charity.

The assertion came this week as the government unveiled Courtauld 2025, a commitment to cut waste in the food chain by 20% by 2025. The agreement has been signed by nearly 100 of the UK’s leading food and drink manufacturers and retailers, including all the major supermarkets.

FareShare’s food director Mark Varney said: “The real issue is where food is being disposed of at the manufacturing sites.

“That’s where the bulk of the edible food is being thrown away at the moment. Not at the retail stores, not at the retail distribution centres,”​ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today​ programme on Tuesday (March 15).

15Mt of food wasted

About 4Mt of the 15Mt of food wasted in the UK each year came from the manufacturing sector, he claimed.

This was happening because it was cheaper to dispose of it than to keep it as food and make it available to organisations like his, which distributes it to other charities and community groups.

“The government is supporting anaerobic digestion, which is a fantastic technology, but they are not providing support to charities like us,”​ said Varney.

“There is loads of fresh produce that is being provided to animal feed or anaerobic digestion that we are not able to get hold of. But when we talk to those suppliers, they say it is cheaper to throw it away than it is to put it on a chilled truck and keep it in the food chain.”

Easy to redistribute

He suggested that of about 4Mt of waste generated by the food industry each year, about 400,000t was edible, in date, fit for consumption food that would be relatively easy to redistribute.

“If we could get hold of that, we could save the voluntary sector well over £200M a year, doing the equivalent of what other organisations in France, Portugal, Spain, Italy and the US are doing,”​ said Varney.

The Courtauld 2025 agreement has been coordinated by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), part of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Since 2005 it has developed three successive Courtauld Commitments with retailers and manufacturers.

This fourth agreement also involved representatives of the hospitality and foodservice sectors, local authorities and trade and government bodies.

WRAP said it was the first time the entire food chain, from farm to fork, had been brought together to tackle the problem of food waste.

Resources minister Rory Stewart said: “Food waste – at any stage from the farm to the house – is something we should avoid. It wastes precious water and resources. ‎So I am delighted that this great group of food and drink companies has come together with WRAP to reduce our food waste.

“Under the last framework we have already reduced food waste in the supply chain by 10%. And this team-work and leadership should allow us to go much further.”


Food brands and manufacturers backing Courtauld 2025

  • apetito
  • Arla Foods
  • Associated British Foods
  • Birds Eye UK
  • Coca Cola Enterprises
  • Concha y Toro
  • Dawnfresh Seafoods
  • Heineken
  • Kingsland Drinks
  • Nestlé UK and Ireland
  • Premier Foods
  • Treasury Wine Estates
  • Unilever
  • Warburtons

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