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WRAP’s retail survey shows retailers are taking steps to reduce household food waste

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WRAP’S latest Retail Survey shows that actions are being taken on how food is labelled by retailers and brands to help people avoid food waste happening at home. However, with COP27 fresh in people’s minds, the climate action NGO also warns that more needs to be done to help curb the impact the UK’s food waste is having on climate change.

To help reduce food waste further and faster, WRAP’s Retail Survey assessed actions against best practice guidance developed by WRAP, in association with the Food Standards Agency and Defra. It estimates these changes could reduce household food waste by at least 350,000 tonnes per year, if fully implemented. The Survey analysed practices across the eleven major UK retailers, and reviewed progress since the NGO’s last assessment in 2019.

Focus was given to date label application, the use of ‘open life’ (‘best within x days of opening’), storage advice and freezing, defrosting and use advice – important prompts that help people keep what they’ve bought in the best possible condition, and use as much of the food they buy as possible.

Catherine David, Director of Collaboration and Change, WRAP said, “With cost-of-living and food prices rising, it’s never been more important to help people avoid costly food waste, which for many families can top £730 a year. How food is sold and labelled can have a huge influence in helping people better manage food at home. Excellent progress has been made in some areas while there is still lots of work to be done elsewhere. The last few years have been unprecedented for businesses, but it is crucial that we see more high-impact changes implemented. WRAP will continue to work with retailers to push these changes forward and will be conducting regular Retail Surveys to more closely monitor change.”

WRAP has identified a string of positive trends in its 2021 Retail Survey that can help address common causes of food waste in the home. WRAP has also outlined areas where improvements are required and fed back to the UK’s largest retailers where more work is required on their shelves. The best practice can be used on all types of products but the Retail Survey focusses on items that are most-wasted in our homes – including fruit and vegetables, meat, dairy and bread.

Since 2019, WRAP has called for the removal of consumer-facing date labels on most uncut fresh produce. However, its 2021 Retail Survey – a snapshot between August 2021 and March 2022 – showed that the amount of produce without a date label decreased. Furthermore, ‘Display Until’ was still found on some uncut fresh produce. In response to these findings, and following WRAP’s 2022 report Reducing household food waste and plastic packaging, many of the UK’s largest retailers have begun removing ‘Best Before’ dates from uncut fresh produce in line with 2019 Best Practice Guidance. This gives consumers more time to use the items, while in-store stock management processes remain unchanged to ensure continued high-quality food.

Andrew Opie, Director of Food & Sustainability at the BRC, said, “Retailers understand the importance of helping customers to cut their food waste at homes, saving households money and supporting them to cut waste and carbon emissions. Retailers have collectively made good progress, for example, many grocers have begun removing ‘Best Before’ dates from uncut fresh produce and have improved storage, freezing and defrosting advice. Together with WRAP’s Courtauld 2030 and Plastics Pact initiatives, retailers are delivering the collective efforts needed to help UK consumers and the wider environment.”

For more information visit wrap.org.uk

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