Britain’s shameful waste of food has been confirmed by a new study that shows more than two-thirds of produce grown for bagged salads, just under half of bakery goods and four out of 10 of apples are thrown away.
Tesco, working in conjunction with the Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap), calculated the food waste “footprint” for 25 of the supermarket’s best-selling products – looking at what was wasted both inside its supermarkets and in the homes of its customers.
The retail giant admitted that 28,500 tonnes of food waste were generated in its stores and distribution centres in the first six months of this year.
It also estimated that uneaten food costs families about £700 a year.
The company said it was changing its sales tactics in a bid to reduce household waste, by ending multi-buy offers on large bags of salad and removing “display until” dates from fresh fruit and vegetables.
It will also rearrange 600 in-store bakeries to reduce the amount of bread on display and improve stock control.
In 2011, Wrap estimated that 15 million tonnes of food waste is generated each year in the UK – with more than half coming from households – and the issue is seen as a growing international problem.
“Food waste is a global issue and collaborative action is essential if we are to successfully reduce it and reap the financial and environmental benefits of doing so,” said Wrap director Richard Swannell.
“We welcome Tesco’s approach to tackling food waste across their whole supply chain and, by identifying the hot spots, they can tackle these areas effectively.”
Tesco’s commercial director of group food Matt Simister said the changes they were making were “just the start”.
“We’ve all got a responsibility to tackle food waste and there is no quick-fix single solution. Little changes can make a big difference, like storing fruit and vegetables in the right way,” he said.
“We’ll be reviewing what else we can do. We’re working with our suppliers to try to cut waste at all stages of the journey from farm to fork.”
The research found that 68 per cent of produce grown for bagged salad was thrown out, 35 per cent of it in the home. A quarter of grapes are also wasted between the vine and the fruit bowl and a fifth of all bananas are uneaten – with customers throwing one in 10 in the bin.
Tesco said it was involved in trials with apple-growers to reduce pests and disease and will provide simple tips to customers about storing the fruit after finding that more than a quarter of the wastage happens at home.
It will also share tips with customers about how to use leftover bread, and is working with grape and banana suppliers to improve delivery times and conditions.
Wrap said that since 2007 the amount of food waste produced by UK households had fallen by 1.1 million tonnes to 7.2 million tonnes in 2011. Of that, 4.4 million tonnes was usable food, rather than scraps or bones.
Last month, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in a report that 1.3 billion tonnes of food was wasted globally.
Wasted food decays to produce methane, a significant greenhouse gas, and also wastes the water used to produce it.
FAO director-general José Graziano da Silva said as the report was launched: “In addition to the environmental imperative, there is a moral one: we simply cannot allow one-third of all the food we produce to go to waste, when 870 million people go hungry every day.”