Stuart, who heads up campaign group Feeding the 5,000, has accused “dishonest” food retailers of deliberately misleading consumers and trying to deflect attention away from what he claims is bad practice.

Talking to edie, he said he witnessed shocking scenes out in Kenya whereby farmers were forced to throw away up to 40% of the food they produce for UK and European supermarkets.

He said beans were being cut in half in order to fit specified supermarket trays and many growers were suffering from the consequences of cancelled forecasts.

“There is a huge amount of emphasis on waste at the consumer level, but one of my main concerns is how that is being used to deflect attention away from waste in the supply chain,” he asserted.

While Stuart believes supermarkets are measuring the amount of waste being produced in this way, he claims that they are not willing to report on it and that such data often gets left off internal CSR reports and public statistics. He is now urging for greater openness on the issue, not just in the UK but internationally.

“What we want to see is retailers reporting how much food they waste across their supply chains in granular detail over time, and that has been third party audited.

“At the moment, any reporting that is happening is being done in secret and then aggregated, so you can’t tell what different companies are doing.”

Tristram argues that failure to report on food waste in this way means that companies are missing out on a huge economic opportunity.

“There is an exploding sector of social entrepreneurs who are looking to use this wasted food, but their hands are tied by not knowing where the food waste is and not having access to it. A lot of the time, solutions are community based.”

One legislative lever that could force supermarkets to take greater accountability on the issue is the recently passed Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill.

This could introduce new powers to name and shame and potentially fine those companies who break a code of practice should they be found to be passing the cost of their food waste onto suppliers.

“When we talk to supermarkets they look quite uncomfortable when we talk about this issue,” Stuart said. “Supermarkets have the power to change what happens in the supply chain and look right down to farm level to tackle this.”

Read the full interview with Tristram Stuart on the supermarket food waste issue

Maxine Perella

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie