WRAP report reveals slight progress on food waste

Written by: Maddie Ballard | Published:

UK grocery retailers and brands have made progress on implementing practices to reduce food waste but more remains to be done, says WRAP.

The sustainability body visited nearly 60 supermarkets and examined 2,000 food products to determine how successfully retailers have put best-practice guidance on date labels, product life, pack size, and home storage advice into action.

The report summarises the results of the survey and provides new guidance for the sector for packaging and labelling fresh uncut fruit and vegetables.

Developed by WRAP in collaboration with the Food Standards Agency and Defra, the guidance will help retailers identify where fresh produce can be sold loose and reduce the use of best-before dates.

The report indicates that retailers have made progress in several areas. The shelf life for many products has remained stable, and even increased in some cases.

An increase of one-and-a-half days of shelf life was noted for milk, which is encouraging given one extra day could help reduce household milk waste by more than 20,000 tonnes per year.

A quarter of all pre-packed unprepared fresh produce now carries no date label, which encourages consumers to use their judgement as to whether something is still edible rather than throwing it away when the date passes.

Almost all products had correct home storage advice and more products featured advice to store them in the fridge, extending their life. Eight retailers are also committed to reviewing storage temperature advice of <5℃ for products, which prompts people to check their fridge is at the right temperature, keeping food fresh for longer.

There has been a marked increase in the use of the snowflake logo, meaning more food may have its shelf life lengthened by being frozen.

The report also highlights areas for improvement. In particular few retailers had removed ‘open’ life statements, as advised. For example, the average available life for block cheddar cheese is 64 days, but 90% of packs advised use within five or seven days of opening, and bagged salads typically had an open life of one day.

Additionally, 70% of fresh potatoes (a major source of food waste) carried a best-before label and the average available life had decreased by one day since the last survey, to just four days.

Smaller pack sizes featured in many shops, but were often more expensive by weight than larger packs.

Finally, the phrase ‘freeze on day of purchase’ was still present, which is problematic as it leads people to throw away good food instead of freezing it up until the date mark.

Peter Maddox, director at WRAP, explained: “The way food and drink is packaged, labelled and priced can influence household food waste, and retailers and brands are uniquely placed to help minimise food waste in the home.

“Our research shows that people want clear consistent information on packs to help them keep food fresher for longer.

“Overall we’ve seen good progress from all, but we have also been very clear with each company where more work is required, and where they are falling short.”

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