Food waste is a worldwide concern

Supermarkets still encouraging food waste says survey

Supermarkets are still encouraging UK shoppers to overbuy food, according to a new public survey carried out by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

Shoppers said Buy-One-Get-One-Free offers (72 per cent) and half-price promotions (70 per cent) were the major ways supermarkets attracted them, with more than a third naming discounts such as vouchers, money off single items and loyalty card offers as other routes to increased buying.

70 per cent of the 2,023 members of the general public polled said that supermarkets urged them to increase their food purchasing over the festive season, with 45 per cent of respondents saying they did buy more food. 20 per cent of the people polled subsequently wasted or threw away more than 10 per cent of the food they bought over Christmas and New Year, although 41 per cent said they wasted or threw away less than 10 per cent.

Dr Tim Fox, Head of Energy and Environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said, “This latest survey shows that UK shoppers still feel they are encouraged to buy too much food. There are various reasons why around a third to a half of all food produced in the world never reaches a human stomach, and while it would be wrong to lay all of the blame for waste with the supermarkets - deals like Buy-One-Get-One-Free, half-price offers and various other price discounting methods do exacerbate the problem.

“It is certainly a concern that over a fifth of the people surveyed said they had thrown away more than 10 per cent of the food they bought over the festive period. This food could be used to help feed those in hunger today, and is also an unnecessary waste of the considerable land, water and energy resources that were used in the production, processing and distribution of this food - resources that could be used to meet other human needs.”

The survey was carried out by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers to mark the first anniversary of its January 2013 report, Global Food; Waste Not, Want Not. That report estimated that 30-50 per cent of all food produced around the world never reaches a human stomach, with discounts by retailers, confusion regarding date labelling and perceptions of consumer demand for cosmetically perfect produce among the reasons cited for food waste.

The world produces about four billion metric tonnes of food per year, but wastes between a third and a half of this food through poor practices and inadequate infrastructure. By improving processes and infrastructure as well as changing consumer and retailer behaviour, we would have the ability to provide enough food to feed the world’s growing population without the need to increase production significantly.

Further information

Download the Institution of Mechanical Engineers' 2013 report: Global Food; Waste Not, Want Not

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