Perception of food waste must change, inquiry told

Published: 9 Jan 2014

Retailers are delivering the wrong message to consumers in the fight against food waste, experts warned a House of Lords sub-committee today (January 8). 
Tim Benton, professor of population ecology at the University of Leeds, and Professor Charles Godfray, director of the Oxford Martin programme on the Future of Food, argued that the 'throwaway culture' was being reinforced by offers for low cost goods that can be easily produced. 
However, they conceded 'positive steps' had been made over the past ten years, and commended supermarket giant Tesco for 'bravely' announcing its UK food waste arisings for the first half of 2013 in October (see letsrecycle.com story). 
The two experts gave evidence as part of an ongoing inquiry into the European Union's contribution to food waste prevention currently being carried out by the House of Lords' agriculture, fisheries, environment and energy sub-committee. The inquiry was launched in August last year (see letsrecycle.com story). 
Chaired by Lord Cameron of Dillington, it aims to establish how best to approach food waste, how to define food waste and the feasibility of monitoring the problem - which sees an estimated 89 million tonnes thrown away across the continent each year. 
Professor Benton said: "The issue really is about behavioural change in the home and discussion of what the definition of food waste is. The Waste & Resources Action Programme has been world leading in changing the public perception of food waste across the UK. 
"All of the change has got to rest with the consumer, but the consumer is not going to change their behaviour unless they are informed. We need to stop giving the impression that food is something that can be bought or produced or gift-wrapped easily." 
Professor Benton added there was a 'tension' between the safety aspects and the waste aspects of what constituted food waste, such as whether certain types of food waste should be fed to pigs. 
When asked whether retailers could do more to inform consumers, Professor Godfray said while he did not wish to undermine Professor Benton's arguments, he believed some measures - such as an end to BOGOF deals on alcohol in Scotland, or the arrival of 'virtual shopping' where consumers were more selective about what food they purchased - had shown retailers were willing to change. 
Professor Godfray said: "We do not have the public completely with us on food waste, but the UK is pretty good on this compared to the rest of Europe - in general we are going in the right direction but I share the committee's frustration, it would be better to progress quicker." 
He added: "There is a general feeling that the way we label food at the moment is giving a confusing message to the consumer. This is something we want the EU to look into." 
The sub-committee is due to report its findings and recommendations to the House in March. 
Courtesy of letsrecycle.com : http://bit.ly/1igPg8x

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