‘Imports, leftovers and use-by dates leads to huge waste’

December 27, 2015

Andrew Simms


DUMPED DISCOUNTS: Andrew Simms, author of Tescopoly, who says that supermarket, buy-one-get-one-free (BOGOF) deals generate a waste of up to, a third of the original contents. He is an author and fellow of the New Economics Foundation. He established the climate change programme for the Foundation.


BLAME GAME: Tesco, along with their competitors, who are trying to make out their customers and producers generate more waste than themselves while hoping their customers ignore the facts that they generate end-of-day waste; BOGOF deals; buying in more cheaper produce without saying it has a shorter shelf life than local produce and their confusion over “best-before”, “use-by” and “sell-by” dates.


MORE information has emerged of the level of food waste major retailers are generating in the UK.

Eighty per cent of all groceries sold are purchased by consumers by the big four supermarket chains – Asda (part of Wal-Mart), Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons and the budget chains Lidl, Aldi, Iceland and the Co-Operative.

The information below is courtesy of the information compiled by writer John Rees on behalf of PressTV Documentaries after I stumbled across their programme on-line.

For every £1 we spend, 52p is used to pay for groceries and most of this is going to the brand names but are these companies serving us well?

Nearly between half and a third of the food that is produced never makes it to the human stomach – this includes 68 per cent of bagged salads; 47 per cent of bakery items and 40 per cent of apples.

The supermarkets lay the blame for this waste squarely at the door of customers and food producers and they cite a report by the European Union backing them up.

In it the EU claims that supermarkets are generating waste of only five per cent is generated by supermarkets whilst 39 per cent is by consumers and 42 per cent by food producers.

Nobody knows the level of waste that the big supermarkets are generating as there are no figures but Sainsbury’s admits to wasting 44,000 tonnes of food every year.

Closer analysis of the problem shows that supermarkets find ways to distribute of what becomes their food waste – such as excess stock – is to generate it to other parts of the supply chain.

It gives the impression it is the consumer’s and producer’s fault but on closer inspection, this narrative begins to unravel.

Out-of-town supermarkets, said the presenters, by their very location, encourages consumers to buy more than they can consume and if you fill a car boot on a fortnightly basis, the tendency is to purchase more than you need and then some of the groceries quickly go off before they are consumed.

Discounted produce and buy one get one free (BOGOF) deals give the illusion of savings when in fact they end up as waste.

“Best before” dates are chosen as early as possible by large retailers so that it minimises any potential risk of legal action.

Few customers can tell the difference between the “best before” and the “sell-by” date. In fact two-thirds of customers couldn’t tell the difference according to a report drafted by the House of Lords.

Former supermarket manager Jane Collins said: “All supermarkets will have offers on weekly and you will have no say on how of that stock will come into your shop so you may get the same amount as a big store and generally you get quite a lot left over at the end of the promotion, so again this is wastage or you have a stock room of things that are slowly going out of date.

“Consumers get rid of in by the sell-by date but fresh food will have three days on it, so the use-by date is later than the sell-by date. This is an issue for people at home, they tend to throw the food away because it has reached the sell-by date but you still get two or three days on the use-by date.”

It gets more interesting when the programme shows how the shelf life of imported food is relatively short and although supermarkets complain local food costs more, its shelf life is a lot longer and better value for consumers.

Graciela Romero Vazquez of War on Want says: “The supermarkets are not buying from local producers. They are importing food at a greater expense of the environment, for example they are importing apples from New Zealand when they could get them here in the UK.

“They buy them cheaper in New Zealand than they buy here and it increases the transport costs, paying peanuts to people in other countries.”

It was also alleged in the programme – shockingly – that some retailers put bleach on end-of-date waste or put “not for human consumption on it” sticker on it, when it could be used by charities to feed the homeless such as London-based Food For All.

Director Para Sarum said: “Food is getting chucked out, sometimes bleach is being thrown on it. It is kept well away from people. You get a criminal record if you try and take that food and actually they (the supermarkets) should be getting a criminal record for throwing that food away.”

Author of Tescopoly and fellow of the New Economics Foundation, Andrew Simms, says supermarket commercial practices are based on a “very narrow definition of efficiency”.

“Efficiency for the big supermarkets today is about driving costs down. Whenever you drive costs down, it drives them up for someone else. What is cheap for supermarkets and what maximizes their profits is a cost for others.

“Ironically in the face of their narrowly-defined economic efficiency, it also generates a huge amount of other kinds of waste, so when they push the three-for-two or two-for-one offers, or BOGOF offers it is the equivalent of one-third of what you buy going into waste and landfill.”


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

MP January 6, 2016 at 9:45 pm

Does that mean their sell -by dates will be like M&S!! Lousy!


From a concerned consumer January 8, 2016 at 6:21 pm

Sort it out!!


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