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Retailer action on consumer food waste: WRAP survey

WRAP, the Waste Resources Action Programme has published the findings of its Retailer Survey 2012, , which looks at the progress the food industry has made in reducing the amount of food that consumers waste.

The 2012 survey looked at 12,000 products across 20 different categories where food waste has traditionally been high, including bread, bacon, chicken, apples, carrots, potatoes, bagged salad, rice, pasta, yoghurt, eggs, cheese and milk.

The survey’s findings included:

  • Increased availability of smaller packs of potatoes, milk, cooking sauces, bread and bread rolls
  • Nearly half of all packs (47%) are now re-closable.
  • 96% of all products surveyed carried storage guidance, helping consumers keep food fresher for longer
  • New labelling being rolled out by retailers including Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, and now Waitrose, makes it clear consumers don’t have to freeze goods on the day of purchase, but can do so any time up to the ‘use by’ date
  • The use of ‘display until’ dates has fallen dramatically with less than a third of surveyed products carrying this. No ‘sell by’ dates were found on any of the products. Retailers are also finding new ways to make ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates easier to read  to reduce confusion and help consumers know when to eat foods by
  • More than 95% of all cheddar cheese packs surveyed now carry a ‘best before’ date rather than a use by date
  • 94% of chilled orange juice packs surveyed in 2011 carried a ‘use by’ date, but following discussions with WRAP, innocent has adopted a ‘best before’ date on all its smoothies and juices. British Soft Drinks Association and British Retail Consortium members have now agreed that all heat treated (pasteurised) fruit juices should carry a ‘best before’ date. This tells consumers they can use the product quite safely after the date on the label - important when around £220 million of cheese and £80 million of juices are thrown away each year because they are ‘not used in time’

Richard Swannell, WRAP’s Design & Waste Prevention Director says that there is more to be done: “There are areas where we think retailers could continue to make improvements – for example, by removing ‘display until’ dates, increasing consistency of ‘use by’ or ‘best before’ date use and ensuring that consumers are given as long as possible to make use of the food (shelf-life). Increasing the proportion of products that carry freezing and defrosting guidance and the use of ‘freeze before date mark’ label could also make a big difference.“

The survey can be downloaded here.

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