Charities slam Tesco over food waste ‘scandal’

Charities are lining up to criticise Tesco’s plans to reduce food waste, claiming they do not go far enough to tackle the amount of food that gets thrown away, while rivals claim they have already adopted most of the changes Tesco is putting in place.

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The supermarket released figures today (21 October) revealing that in the first six months of the year its stores and distribution centres wasted 28,500 tonnes of food. It is now making changes including ending multi-buy promotions on salads, getting rid of “display until” dates and changing how its displays fresh fruit and vegetables and bread.

Oxfam dubbed the amount of food that gets wasted a “scandal”, while Friends of the Earth says it needs to go much further in tackling the issue.

Hannah Stoddart, Oxfam’s head of economic justice policy, says: “Wasting this amount of food when almost a billion people go hungry every day and record numbers in the UK are using food banks, is nothing short of a scandal. It is a damning indictment of a food system that places greater importance on corporate profits than ensuring everyone has enough to eat.”

Friends of the Earth campaigner Vicki Hird adds: “The supermarket needs to go much further than these baby steps to tackle the huge waste it causes in its operations such as over-ordering and demanding cosmetic perfection and via marketing. All retailers should stop multi-buy deals and other marketing tools which lead to customers wasting fresh food.”

Rivals supermarkets are keen to point out that they already have similar programmes in place to limit food waste. Sainsbury’s says it has already stopped BOGOFs on all short-life produce, instead offering “mix and match” across its whole fruit and vegetable range. It also offers smaller bags of salad and twin packs that contain, for example, iceburg lettuce and watercress.

Morrisons, meanwhile, claims it “applies deals sensibly” so consumers don’t overbuy products with a short shelf-life. It also claims its waste control is “very lean” because it runs a different model to Tesco that see it make more than half its fresh food, for example buying whole fields of carrots.

Nevertheless, food redistribution charity Fareshare says retailers could do more, especially with demand for services such as food banks on the rise. Overall, the Waste and Resources Action programme estimates that 15 million tonnes of food is wasted annually in the UK.

Caley Eldred, Director of fundraising and marketing at Fareshare, says: “We welcome Tesco’s decision to acknowledge waste in the system. This is a difficult subject to talk about publicly.

“But the industry needs to be more practical about waste and find more ways to make sure use of food that would otherwise be wasted.”

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