‘Only 2 per cent of surplus supermarket food goes to charity’

December 6, 2015

Lindsay Boswell (Resource)

FOOD SURPLUS: Fair Share chief executive Lindsay Boswell, who told the Hugh’s War on Waste programme that only two per cent of surplus in-date food that is thrown out by supermarkets is being used for re-distribution. He has challenged supermarkets to increase it to 25 per cent as Fair Share and other similar charities have the infra-structure to re-distribute that amount. Picture courtesy of Resource.co.uk


Diet Coke

WRONG COLOUR: Hundreds of Diet-Coke bottles like this was sent to a Fair Share warehouse after being thrown out by a large retailer as they claimed consumers said the packaging had the wrong shade of grey on it.



HANDS UP: Waitrose, who responded to a request by the programme to answer why perfectly good food was being chucked after Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall went under cover with Bristol some café owners, skip-diving for produce at one of their large stores. On being confronted with the covert footage, their head of sustainability Quentin Clarke said their waste policy needed to be “refreshed”.


A QUARTER of in-date surplus food thrown out by large retailers could be used by charities but only one fiftieth is actually being used, says a major charity that distributes it.

The revelation was made by food distribution charity Fair Share on the second episode of Hugh’s War on Waste on the BBC/

Fourteen million tonnes is bought by UK consumers annually and the bulk of it is sold by seven supermarkets – Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Waitrose, Tesco, Asda, Aldi and Lidl. Unfortunately for ourselves, four million of those tonnes are wasted by ourselves but supermarkets too have to take their fair share of the blame.

On their websites to differing degrees, they make a play of what they are practically doing to stamp out food waste but the reality is somewhat different.

Confronting Morrison’s purchasing managers over a wad of cancelled orders, they pass the buck on to their suppliers.

One representative says: “They can sell produce anywhere they like. If our practices are so bad, why are they still selling to us?”

River Cottage presenter Hugh-Fearnley-Whittingstall tags along with Bristol café owners Sam and Katie who – for seven years – have been sourcing their food from “skip diving”, taking produce that has been thrown out by supermarket branches who have ruled that is “not fit for human consumption”.

In this episode, they are seen raiding the bins of Waitrose and Tesco outlets, with the River Cottage presenter and together they discover under-ripe fruit, energy tablets, Ferrero Roche chocolates, ready-made meals and mineral water. The café owners say they have fed 25,000 customers through their policy of “skip-diving”.

In one case Sam was waiting 40 minutes in a car after being cautioned for doing this, and when the unnamed supermarket was asked if they wanted to pursue the court case, they factored in the potential negative publicity so they pulled out.

On finding some very good-looking bananas and a Heston Blumental ready-made, meal, Hugh says: “You do get a better class of waste at Waitrose, don’t you?”

After agreeing to be interviewed, Hugh confronts Quentin Clarke, Waitrose head of sustainability with their “skip-diving” footage.

Mr Clarke said: “If it is left on our shelves, the first thing we do is reduce it for our customers, then we’ll reduce and sell it to staff. The next stage is we donate it to charities and organisations around our store.

“Clearly food is falling through the net. Our commitment is that we don’t want to see any food that is fit for human consumption disposed of. It is a fair call but it is not meant to deliberately deceive but it needs to be refreshed. We want food to be eaten, not for it not to be eaten.”

There are organisations that take surplus stock that is in date before it is sent to landfill but only a fraction of it is being saved for re-distribution before being secretly destroyed.

Fair Share listed spurious reasons for different items of stock being not sold such as Hundreds of plastic bottles of Diet Coke due to the packaging being the wrong shade of grey.

Their CEO Lindsey Boswell said: “The biggest crime in the food industry is not being able to meet demand and that starts when you and I walk into a supermarket, their shelf is bare, we’ll go to their rival.

Hugh replies: “You are talking about an entire industry of being deliberate over-supply because under-supply is a crime that they are not prepared to consider.”

Mr Boswell said: “Although we provide 150,000 meals a week and we save 2,000 charities £20M that is only 2 per cent of the surplus in-date fit-for-selling, fit-for-retailing, for consuming food in the UK.

“Our message to the food industry is that we want to go from 2 per cent to 25 per cent. We know the volunteers are there because people hate waste. We’ve got the infra-structure, so we need more food to supply to more charities.”

As Hugh asks at the beginning of the programme, “Who do we need more? The people who grow our food or the people who sell it to us?”

So if you’re a consumer, ask yourself Hugh’s question. Protect our food supply chain and eliminate the waste and we might be partially on the road to solving this crisis.

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