Tristram Stuart, who has won much recognition for his work on the subject, told delegates at the Associate Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group meeting in London this week (March 20) that the UK’s record on cutting food waste was dismal.

In a damning critique, he said the food industry’s commitment to reduce food waste in supply chains by 5%, as agreed in Courtauld 2, was hardly ambitious. He was also dismayed by the signatories’ achievement of just 0.4% food waste reduction so far under that target.

“Compare it to Norway’s target of 25% across the supply chain and Holland’s 20%. I think internationally we are regarded as the country that has taken more measures than most to tackle food waste but I think we do need to start pushing the industry a little bit further.”

Stuart told delegates that it wasn’t impossible to slash food waste in supermarkets. He cited Marks & Spencer, which he said had claimed to have reduced its food waste by 40% after introducing significant policy changes.

“If they can do it, so can others,” he argued. “Some of these companies have huge opportunities for waste reduction, both in their own stores but more importantly often in their supply chain.

“We need to at least open the dialogue about what we are going to do if, for example, the 5% target is not met and in any case whether 5% is enough for food waste reduction given the scale of the problems we are facing.”

Stuart, who has travelled the world looking at food production in other countries, said that the food system had massive inefficiencies, which was why food waste should be at the very top of the global food supply agenda. He also told delegates that he inspected supermarkets bins to find out what food waste was arising.

“Unfortunately, we do have to inspect bins unofficially because there is no supermarket in this country or indeed any other that allows its waste supply chain, back of store and all the way up the supply chain, to be audited by a third party,” he said.

“There is no transparency in terms of food waste production and therefore a lot of my work has been on essentially revealing to the public and policy makers the extent of the problem and more importantly where we can push buttons to try to reduce it.”

Nick Warburton

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