A third of food grown for human consumption in the UK ends up in the rubbish bin, according to a survey.
Food industry and government statistics show that each adult wastes £420 of food a year.
Lord Haskins, the government's food and farming adviser, described the figures as outrageous and said: "We are very greedy when we go and shop. Our eyes are bigger than stomachs in homes and in restaurants."
How much food do you throw away? Do you pay attention to the sell-by date? How can waste be reduced? Send us your comments and experiences.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
Let's stop this supermarket madness. Let's give as much business as possible to local shops, markets etc. They, on the whole, offer a really good quality seasonal range of food and drink without the outrageous over packaging. Buying local, regional or British at large should not be seen as an outdated and prejudiced action but as a sign of sanity when it comes to caring for the environment as well as supporting the future of quality food production in this country.
Philippe Esclasse, Canterbury, Kent
Only yesterday I was at a council meeting in which a lot people didn't turn up so four trays of sandwiches were going to thrown away. Luckily a woman who does a lot of work with the homeless was at the meeting and she took them all to a night shelter she has dealings with. If she had not been at the meeting all that food, and there was a lot, would have been binned. I think this proves we are a nation of food wasters on a scale not yet imagined.
Suchi Chatterjee, Brighton, UK
We do not have to deal with excessive supermarket portions because we shop locally at family run butchers, bakers, fishmongers etc. The food is cheaper, tastes better and the shop owner knows where it comes from.
Craig Belfield, Manchester, UK
Has no-one heard of a freezer? Brilliant invention, means you can keep food far longer.
I'm only in my twenties but was brought up to "waste not want not"! I am truly horrified when I see my friends throwing away perfectly decent leftovers or out of date food. Generally, we do not think enough about where our food comes from. If we were to consider the processes and journey that food undergoes in order to arrive on our plates I think we would be shocked.
Anna, Brighton, UK
This is a subject dear to my heart. As a child I always remembering eating everything on my plate, and the sound of a knife scraping across a plate by the bin was rarely heard. I now have 2 young children who are very difficult to please at meal times. I am really annoyed when they complain about what we give them to eat, and even more so when I end up throwing the food away. We need to find a simple way of introducing new foods without ending up wasting it when it is refused!
Jonathan Moss, Buckley, Flintshire
We are a household of two adults who work full-time, wastage really upsets me for all the reasons mentioned, so we have a box of organic vegetables delivered weekly and as veggies we mostly eat the lot, but thanks to an interest in cooking have learned to use up left-overs or "elderly" vegetables in unusual combinations or dishes. I think if people consciously took the trouble to eliminate as much wastage as possible they would surprise themselves, and their budget!
Hilde Nixon, Eastbourne
My mother's younger brother was a POW during WW2. She remembers distinctly how on his return home after the war how he dived into the rubbish bin to 'rescue' potato peelings and castigated the family for throwing away 'good food'. We have inherited our throw away society from the Americans, and whether it is for better or worse depends on your personal circumstances.
My Grandmother never threw anything away and reused nearly everything, recycling wasn't even heard off then, wasting food is criminal when people are starving else where.
Matthew Hoxley, Essex
I think the supermarkets and manufacturers have a lot to do with this problem. How many times have I picked up a block of cheese bearing the legend 'matured for six months' only to see the words 'eat within three days' stamped on the back. We have survived as a species for millions of years without the need for antibacterial wipes and sell-by dates.
CS Cameron, Edinburgh
Had there been no demand for "perfect" fruits and vegetables from the supermarkets, I do wonder if the British public would have been brainwashed into believing that food should be eaten by a certain date, should be of a certain size, should have a certain look, should be eaten green (bananas for example). The British public have been conned into throwing away perfectly edible food because it suits the big suppliers. More food wasted means more food bought in the supermarkets.
I hate wasting food and always try to instil in our children not to be wasteful, when I was a child I watched my grandmother scrape every last morsel of butter off the paper, she brought up fourteen children and knew what it was to go without, with that in mind we are re-creating a wartime garden over the next year to grow our own fruit and veg so our children will have a better overall appreciation of good food.
Garry Bradshaw, Preston, Lancashire
We work out a menu and a shopping list for each week and buy for that. At the end of the week, the fridge and cupboards are fairly empty, so little or nothing is wasted. The danger comes from impulse food shopping, where you go into a store and decide that you fancy this or that to eat and can't remember whether you have the ingredients at home to make it. So you buy them, only to find out that you already had the ingredients in the first place and now have a surplus, which is likely to be wasted as it lies in the fridge/cupboard for ages.
When we buy something food-wise, we always try to buy items with the longest sell-by date, that way, if we change our minds about eating it, there's still time to eat it before it expires and goes in the bin. If we buy ingredients to make, for example, a chicken-curry, we use everything up by making a large quantity of the dish and then make individual portions and freeze them as ready-meals. These are great for work and are more interesting than a "sandwich" at lunchtime.
Tony McArdle, Basingstoke, UK
Tony, UK: you can freeze cheese. Cut it into appropriate size portions - it'll keep for up to 3 months
Joy, London UK
The government should make a spoof famine and pretend that there is a food shortage. That way people will panic and learn not to waste food just in case it is taken away from them. People in Britain are really selfish and they could do with a shock to make them appreciate a few things.
I make soup, as do many other folk, with leftover veg, or use it in a stir-fry. Left over cheese I grate and store in the freezer - it's easy to use for a quick cheese sauce or omelette.
Pauline Taylor, Elgin, Scotland
I am a vegetarian, so most of my food is cooked from raw materials. The only foods that go off before they are eaten are bread, fruit and veg. The fruit and veg I make into a drink or smoothy, and any bread goes out to the birds
Alex Knox, Bedford
You only really get use by dates on pre-packaged processed rubbish so the bin is the place for it. Buy fresh and make your own meals, if you buy only what you need and compost any real waste you can't go far wrong. It is cheap, easy, fun and contrary to what big business would like us to believe takes no time at all so is convenient.
Chris G., Cambridge UK
If Lord Haskins is saying that lots of food beyond its sell-by date is good to eat, what is the point of a sell by date?
Bev, Warrington, Cheshire
I partly blame the vague difference between use by and best before dates. Canned or dry food can be fine months after the best before date and fruit and veg for several days after the use by. However, last year I lost two weeks from work with campylobacter poisoning after eating cooked chicken on the evening of the use by date. Perhaps it should be more clear when food is OK after the use by date.
Alex, Cheshire, UK
We waste very little at home as we try to buy our meat, fresh veg and bread from local shops where we know that we will get good quality and truly fresh produce. Too much on the supermarket shelves has been stored in chilled or frozen storage for too long to be able to last for long and the bread products often taste as though they've been reheated to hide their staleness.
J Burdall, Matlock, England
While I agree that supermarkets don't help the problem with buy one get one free, as a student on a budget you can still make good use of these deals by either freezing, making soup or cooking for the whole flat once a week to use stuff up.
I buy fresh and local produce only. It lasts longer and there is less packaging. Leftovers are easily liquidised into soups and frozen. It's time we got back to basics with food.
This isn't a black and white issue. Adding more preservatives and packaging to our food would be an effective way of prolonging its shelf life, but nobody wants to see that happen. You can't deal with food wastage in isolation.
Kate Griffin, Oxford
Here in Southampton we have a local charity which collects fresh food which is past its display until date from supermarkets and redistributes it to other local charities providing emergency food supplies and shelter. It works very well. The supermarkets get rid of food they cannot display and it is passed on and consumed before its use by date by those in most need in the city.
How do people end up with all this food past its use by date? We plan the week's menu and buy what we need to cook it. No waste. What's the problem?
Lisa T, Cambridge
My husband ate some eggs that were only two days out of date last night. Today he is sick. From now on, I'm sticking to use by dates.
Food is too expensive to waste. Don't tell anyone, but I have halved my grocery bill by buying vegetables that have reached their sell by date. Most of them will be ok for up to two weeks after this date. On the other hand there are other countries in Europe who claim that the poultry in their supermarkets is salmonella free which is not the case in this country, so you have to be aware of what you are doing.
We as a nation do not remember hard times any more, I feel that it is an absolute shame to waste food in this country when so many people around the world starve. If ever there were severe food shortages in this country we would be fighting each other just to get a loaf of bread.
A Klier, Gwent
I work for a large retail clothing and food store chain and part of my job is to remove food that has a store by date which is then sold to staff, the rest is distributed among several charities and then thrown away. The actual sell by date may well be different to the use by date, but at the end of the day, in the lawyer friendly climate we are living in, if a customer attempts to purchase a food product that has past its sell by date - no matter how fresh it may seem - the company can be sued for millions.
We don't waste food at home - we try to eat everything we buy. All veg peelings go on the compost heap, and the cats eat any spare meat or fish. However, I do often find that I can't finish food in restaurants - the portions are simply too big.
Julie, London, UK
It's not just wasted food that's a problem. The number of miles it travels (by air, road etc) by being routed around the supermarket distribution centres before reaching the consumer causes even waste.
Paul Turner, London, UK
This is a symptom of extreme rich and poor. Poor countries keep food prices cheap by not having the money to buy food. Increase tax and give poor people worldwide directly and individually the money to buy food. Then food will be shared more equally, and there will not be enough food to go around, but then there will be no waste! The technology exists to do this. However the average person in the richer countries would rather people starve than to manage the world food resources fairly.
Rob Cain, Derby
When I was in China, we always wasted food. When I felt full, I stopped eating and threw away the rest of the food. But here, I never do such things any longer. Everything is expensive and I cannot find as much food as I can in China. I don't think the life quality in the UK is higher than the one in the big cities and towns in China. When you have more than necessary, it's possible for you to waste. The more you waste, the more food you can obtain.
I think giving people more choice of package sizes of food and also more loose products to pick and mix the amount they need, rather than some of it going off. Also some supermarkets force you to take the 'buy one get one free' offers, whereas sometimes you know you're not going to need the other one if you only have a few people in your household.
Buy fresh food and cook from fresh. Don't buy ready meals which are made to a cost which means cutting corners on ingredients and making food fit for transit/storage etc. It will work out cheaper, there is less waste, farmers get better costs and you will be healthier. Everybody wins!
Lee Newham, UK
I'm guilty I guess. Not because I like wasting food, but I'll buy fresh meat and veg from my local shop, but then after work I can't be bothered to cook, and so after a few days it's wasted. I try to cook when I can, but it depends on my mood.
Nick, London, UK
It's worth noting that most wasted food isn't wasted in homes, it's wasted by canteens; schools; offices; ships; restaurants etc. And the food, in most cases, can't be given away to the poor or homeless due to health and safety laws.
Nathan Hobbs, Luton, UK
As a young housewife in the 70s and 80s my bookshelves were full of books on how to cook economically by authors such as Shirley Goode and Jocasta Innes. All these books are now out of print and my own copies are dog-eared through much use. People need to be educated on how to use leftovers, and how to plan a week's menus so that food isn't wasted, write out shopping lists and stick to them. Thinking ahead saves money, time and effort and puts an end to impulse buys that rot in the fridge. With these guidelines I carry much less home than I might otherwise do and virtually nothing is wasted.
Andrea McCulloch, Co. Durham UK
Being vegetarian, and always cooking our own food from raw ingredients, we waste nothing. If there are any leftovers, we have three dogs that gratefully eat what we leave!
Brian and Nadine, UK
Being a student on a limited budget I try not to waste food, but I find that big supermarkets aren't really conducive to buying for one person. Packets of meat especially, and vegetables (see some students do at least try to eat healthily) are too big to use before they start to go off. I've recently stopped using the supermarket for most food and started using a grocers and a butchers instead. That way I can buy exactly how much I need. Maybe this debate could tell us more about supermarkets than our wasteful habits?!
AJ, Oxford, UK
I don't waste food - I cook from raw ingredients every night, and anything left over from dinner either gets frozen (as home-made ready meals - without all the crap you get in pre-packaged ones) or used for as part of the next day's lunch box (to the envy of my work colleagues). I find the trend towards pre-prepared, packaged food quite worrying - yes it is easier and quicker, but all those preservatives and flavour-enhancing chemicals have got to be bad for us in the long run (not to mention all that packaging and our current landfill crisis...)
Maq, Chelmsford, Essex, UK
I am ashamed to say that I do throw too much food away - my husband often complains about this, and I do feel very guilty. However, the problem isn't related to the sell-by dates, which I often ignore, it is simply a question of poor planning. I don't plan my meals in advance, and I don't use a shopping list. I tend to blame this on my busy lifestyle, but in fact, it is probably just laziness. I will try to do better...
A third of our food is being thrown away? That might explain why Tesco is doing so well.
Chris B, Bedford, England
We need to tackle the problem from 'both ends', as it were, as well as the middle at the consumer stage. While we are driving up the standard of food for human consumption, we equally need to be doing it in a way which minimises waste during production. Any waste needs to be recycled and recyclable, i.e. packaging. At home, we try not to waste any food, not least because it's a waste of money! Any we do have to throw out we can now recycle for compost in my district - a positive step forward.
Tom Lee, Cambridge
I ignore most sell-by-dates. They're an obvious ploy to get you to buy more food.
James , UK
Being a Muslim, I am forbidden to waste food or throw it away. One of the reasons that we fast in Ramadan for thirty days beside medical benefits are to remind us that food on our plates and on the table is a gift of God to mankind. We should always think about the million of hungry people on the earth who cannot eat one meal a day and often go hungry for days, that is sufficient to remind us of our fortunate existence. In the affluent societies, food wastage is such a crime that if exported, it could easily feed half of the hungry of the world. I always buy what is essential and enough to feed my family. I am not tempted by bargains or deals and leave the rest to my wife.
Saqib Khan, London, UK
EU food and hygiene regulations also mean that food that was once given to the homeless/ employees or even for pigfeed, now has to be thrown away. Well meaning perhaps but a wicked waste.
Emma, Southend, UK
The only food that I throw out is inedible due to mould. Those who are obsessed with sell by dates are always the first to get food poisoning on holiday. They also tend to get it more severely as they have no immunity. If you are obsessed by sell by dates you must be very wealthy as the only foreign holidays you can go on safely are the luxury ones.
We recycle leftovers and out of date/off food to our animals (dog, cats, chickens, horses)! Between them they'll eat most things, even all the veggie peelings!
Clare, Derbyshire, England
Sounds as if there is a gap in the TV chef market for a no frills, basic leftovers cooking programme. I'd watch it.
Katherine, London, UK
I never throw food away but this may have contributed to my waist size. As I live on the dole you cannot afford to throw anything away but also cannot afford a decent diet either.
Adrian Cannon, Edinburgh, Scotland
Waste can be reduced simply by only cooking/preparing what is needed, and to not be afraid to freeze or reheat leftovers. Simple home economics really. The fashion for US size portions or non-reheatable convenience foods makes waste more likely.
Andy D, Oxford, UK
As there are only two of us we avoid buying things like lettuce, big bags of fresh food etc because we know we will not eat it before it gets bad. The only problem is bread; it is really hard to get through bread before it is hard/dry or mouldy. More choice of half loaves would be great for us, they are usually sold out-better stock rotation in supermarkets would help too.
I hate to waste food and try not to by shopping several times in the week. We are a family of three who only get together for dinner and I enjoy cooking, but once in a while I am simply too tired to cook so we go out to a restaurant and that's when our provisions eventually get wasted. And the relatively large portions of bread, cereals, fruit and vegetable packages, etc that supermarkets offer certainly don't help.
Eugenia Kothe, Idstein, Germany
The practice of retailers to offer deals of 'buy one get one free' and 'three for two' is largely to blame for the immoral waste of food. How much profit do they need?
Martha Feleppa, London
No. My father was a child during the Depression and my mom during WWII rations. I was brought up that wasting food was practically a crime.
I always thought that the sell-by or best-before date was put on the product so the manufacturer could not be sued if the product was consumed after this date. I often consume products that have exceeded this date as long as they smell and taste ok.
Daniel Trousers, Homerton, England
Having been completely organic for a year, buying Fairtrade wherever possible, I find that I waste almost nothing. The problem is that cheap harmful junk is sold as food. Put a huge tax on the rubbish that contains harmful ingredients such as hydrogenated fat, MRM, sugars etc. Maybe that would encourage a more healthy attitude to real food.
Mark Vince, Newcastle Upon Tyne
I admit to wasting food. If my bread is slightly stale I'm likely to bin it and get a new fresh loaf from the shop across the road for my sandwiches. A new loaf costs only 60p or so whereas stale sandwiches aren't much fun...
Reggie Bumsplatt, Homerton, England
My wife used to do a big weekly shop, as a result waste loads of food as it didn't get eaten. Now she goes shopping about 3 times a week now we waste hardly anything and it's cheaper. We do live 1/2 mile from a Morrison store which makes it easy to do regular shopping.
I try my best not to throw away food - I recently got a reduced rate composter from my local council and a lot can go in there. I also have a healthy appetite and tend to eat all that is in front of me due to years of my nan telling me 'there are lots of starving children in the world so eat up!'.
The amount of food thrown away by consumers at home is minimal compared to the criminal waste imposed by the food industry and by supermarkets, all in the name of customer "choice".
Paul, Lincoln, UK
It's the pathetic people who religiously adhere to the 'use by' date and throw food away as soon as that date arrives without even opening the packaging and checking the food. It's obvious that there is a large safety margin on these 'use by' dates and they will last a good deal longer than that date if only people weren't so paranoid. I blame the health and safety police.
More to the point, we all waste the packaging. In most foods the packaging, transport and excessive profit make up the bulk of the cost of food. Even if you consume the food, the degree of "waste" is outrageous.
Jamie McClure, London
Being retired I buy my food on a day by day basis, and only buy what I am going to cook and eat that day. Therefore, no waste of food or money.
Derek Betson, Switzerland
I try never to throw away food (occasionally bread) and am surprised to hear people say they throw away a third of bought food. What a waste! If you buy two-for-one products why not freeze one of them if you know you don't need it straight away. Some people!
GB, Reading, Berkshire
Big deal. Lord Haskins gets on a high horse and tells us that we are "outrageous" in the way we shop for food. Quite simply things evolve they way have to be in all the circumstances. To go down a Haskins path, we would have to wind back 50 years to the pre-supermarket days, define new policies and move forward again. Not going to happen.
David Ball, Wokingham, UK
Sell-by dates don't tell you one important fact about the food - when it was produced. By sourcing your food locally (or in cities, through a distribution system that works directly with producers) will mean that your food has a longer shelf life, and waste is therefore much less likely. In supermarkets, most food spends half its life in distribution centres or trucks.
Mark, London, UK
Many items in our fridge, particularly in jars, have been there well over six months and are still fine to eat. This is despite the words "once opened consume within 28 days" on them. This includes items such as pickled onions and many jams. Picking was originally DESIGNED to preserve food and jams are often referred to as "preserves" so why the instruction to throw them away after only one month? To maybe sell more perhaps?
Mike Bidgood, Aberdeen, UK
I'm ashamed at how wasteful we have become. Our local council has had the clever idea of providing heavily discounted composting bins, so now most people have the ability to turn their own food waste into something useful - garden centres are even offering to buy it off us!
Dave, Buckinghamshire, UK
Here in Canada, as with our southern neighbours, we are an extremely wasteful consumer society. In the produce aisles of the food store in particular, this is most evident. Everything on sale must be aesthetically correct, waxed, shiny and blemish free. Anything less is generally discarded. The stores have now become elegant food boutiques, with prices to match. As an ex chef and a pensioner, I usually wait around until the produce manager has done his rounds, picking off the less than perfect goods, and rewrapping them in "half price" bags for the discount rack.
Ray Claxton, Parksville, Canada
Yes, food gets thrown away, Years ago a crusty loaf of bread would be OK for days but now after one day its soggy and wet. Also people who shop at farm shops are being conned. I live in the country and I know that the owners of my local farm shop buy most of their food products in from the London markets before putting them on their shelves.
Alan Baker, Chelmsford Essex
The ducks in the park are very grateful that I toss them the bread that goes stale. I wish there were some way that I could buy a half loaf; I live alone and everything here comes in such enormous packages.
Allie, North Carolina, USA
Personally I waste almost nothing - I can't afford to. I prepare most meals from fresh ingredients and make my own bread. Cooking single-size portions isn't always practical, so I freeze part of what I cook. Leftovers are composted. I also buy lots of short-coded items that can be frozen. A lot of things are wasted by stores because they don't want to risk litigation for food poisoning by giving away food that is just past its sell-by.
Sarah Hartwell, Chelmsford, UK
Over the last two years we've turned right around and throw out only a small amount of food. Where possible we make meals to be frozen from leftovers (saves buying supermarket ready meals) and use any scraps of meat to make pies. All it takes is a little effort and less time in front of the TV.
Mark Lowes, Somerset
I don't throw much away, but then I buy my groceries fresh virtually every day on my way home from work. Here in Holland processed food and ready meals are still only a small part of the supermarket offering, unlike in the UK where you can't find the fresh meat because the fridge display is full of ready made lasagne. As a result I only buy what I will need that evening, and we eat fresh meat and vegetables every night. It doesn't cost more because I don't get tempted into bulk-buying special offers.
Jennifer, Netherlands, ex-UK
It depends on what is meant by "waste". I add leftovers to my dog's food, and also put some in my garden compost bin. Even so, I certainly throw out quite a lot. I'm not ashamed of it though. It's not as if we can air-drop stale bread or wilting broccoli for the starving millions in Africa.
Jamie Shepherd, UK
The problem comes from our compensation culture. Fruit and vegetables can last for weeks if stored carefully. Fresh chicken should be good for five to six days and things like bacon much, much longer. However, to avoid any chance of being sued if someone does get ill, the supermarkets put two-day sell by dates on everything and food gets thrown away. I suspect most of the waste doesn't occur at home either - supermarkets must have to discard tons of unsold food daily.
If this is what we throw away, imagine what the big supermarkets class as waste! With they're policy of "Full shelves sell" there is probably a veritable food mountain of waste every day! I've long thought this is ridiculous given the number of starving around the world and in this country, and all because of greed.
Mark, Cardiff, Wales
I cannot bear to throw away food, from either my plate or fridge (unless it is inedible). With regards to sell by dates, I use my eyes, nose and taste buds to tell me if food is OK to eat, and ignore any dates on the packaging. People should be less fussy and consider those with nothing before being wasteful. A bit of mould - scrape it off! By the way I am rarely ill!
I am overweight and was taught at Weightwatchers not to finish the food on my plate if I am full. Now I am being told that I shouldn't waste any. Personally, I think that me losing weight and putting less strain on the NHS is better than me wasting some food!
I agree with Lord Haskins. The waste in our society is horrifying. Why doesn't the BBC devote a programme series on tasty ways to deal with leftover food instead of proliferating programmes showing high profile chefs cooking designer dishes. Using leftovers intelligently can produce a meal tasting every bit as good as the original one.
Jeremy Martin, Lympstone, Devon
I blame the large packages of fresh food that supermarkets sell. I make a conscious effort to think whether I really need the 20 clementines at a discount price, or whether four "loose" items would do instead.
Chris Q, Bradford, England
Wasting food is a moral crime. Throwing away so much when others have so little. It is our duty as members of a wealthy country to be scrupulous about our food waste and be mindful of others suffering.
Paul Winwright, Elstead, UK
Don't be paranoid about "use by" dates, and buy sensibly. Our household has very little food waste, and peelings end up in the compost or the chickens.
John Atkins, Bridgwater, England
On many occasions I've had to chuck away fruit and vegetable before its use-by-date because produce sold by supermarkets just isn't fresh.
Jane, Guildford, UK
I was working in a supermarket a while ago. One of my duties was to get all of the gone-off food and crush it, dye it blue, and then bin it. Apparently this was to prevent homeless people from thinking it was food as if they found it, it would be a legal liability if they became ill. Every day there would be enough food to feed well over a hundred people. It was just a temp job so I took liberties in how much of it I swiped.
My mother always taught me, "Waste not, want not."
I do try to only buy what will be consumed, not too much extra. With children it is more difficult as they do not always finish what is put in front of them.
As a single person, If found that I would often throw away most of a loaf of bread, and about half a pint of milk. I now freeze a whole sliced loaf, and take out slices as and when I need them. They can be defrosted very quickly and easily. As for the milk, I freeze it in ice cube trays (one cube is just enough for a cup of tea or coffee).
My wife and I were brought up under wartime rationing and nothing was wasted. We do our own cooking (so we know what's in it) and waste nothing. Any leftovers we either make another meal from or compost or to feed to pets. Bones we slow cook to get stock to make soup. Sell-by dates? A con to get you to buy more!
B Parkin, Holywell, Flintshire, UK
Hey single people out there! Make a dinner, dish up two plates and freeze the spare. You can come home from work and re-heat your frozen dinner. We are a family of five and I always dish up for six. The spare meal is always handy in the fridge and some nights everyone has the meal of their choice from the freezer and I don't cook - great!
Ngaire Borlase, Ohoka, New Zealand
I work for the food industry as a technical manager, so am responsible for setting durability coding. We set use by dates as long as we possibly can, but we have to be aware of government guidelines regarding safe bacterial levels in ready to eat foods. As a rule of thumb, don't abuse a use by date, but treat best before dates as guidelines only. We're constrained by the fact that the general public are very poorly educated on how to deal with food, and rather prone to sue at the drop of a hat.
Dan, Newark, Notts
How about portions at restaurants or pre-prepared meals being sold in different sizes? Everyone is different. Isn't it ridiculous that we should all be expected to eat the same size portions?
I was always taught that you should finish your food because of all the starving people in Africa but clearly this is total nonsense. Whether or not we eat a lot makes absolutely no difference to these people and finishing a meal when you've had enough food already seems like a quick trip to obesity. In some cultures leaving food is considered a sign that your host has treated you well.
Christopher Welsby, Warrington
Why does it matter if we waste food? There's an excess of cheap food in Europe, if we can afford to waste it then what's the problem?
Kate D, London
I don't understand the hysteria about wasting food. Food is easily renewable, it is the petroleum based packaging and distribution infrastructure that we should be concerned about squandering. It takes a season to grow an apple, oil deposits take orders of magnitude longer.
If people in restaurants weren't so picky then this wouldn't be a problem. Stop whingeing that the portions are too large and learn to eat properly instead of picking at your food and claiming you're full after a few mouthfuls. I'm fed up with seeing people leave large amounts of food on their plates.
I've seen shops in the UK selling shrink wrapped bananas - how about that for redundant packaging?
Steve, Sydney (expat)
My parents never wasted anything and they also taught me a Chinese poem about a rice farmer, the last two sentences of which translates as: "who knows the rice in your bowl, every grain is the fruit of much hardship". I attest to their successful education by always putting leftovers in the fridge.
Andy Yu, Cambridge, UK
Being single, I have to waste food as most of it comes pre-packed in family size packs. Having to buy six or eight slices of bacon when I want to have two usually means that the rest ends up in the bin. Along with the eggs that are out of date, the bread, butter, veg. The thing I hate the most is celery. I used two sticks in spaghetti, but have to buy a whole plant. All the rest goes in the bin!
Dave Walker, Leicester
Whatever I buy (where possible), I split up and put half straight in the freezer. It doesn't take long to get something out if you run out, rather than keep it all in the fridge and throw half of it away.
Vik, Hoddesdon, Herts
I don't waste much food at all. I go to a supermarket at the higher end of the market because I think that quality is more important than price when it comes to food and there's far less waste. I also plan what I am going to cook so know what ingredients I will need and stick to those.
I rarely waste anything as my dogs eat most of the waste. Contrary to many commonly held beliefs, dogs are omnivorous and scavengers so will eat almost anything and everything. My dogs live on raw meat (green tripe), wholemeal biscuit and leftovers from our plate and cupboard. They are also show dogs with gleaming coats and are very healthy! If (heaven forbid) there is anything left over then it goes onto our compost heap to nourish next year's vegetable patch.
Louise Glaysher, Guildford, UK
I live alone in a small flat, so I don't get to eat everything I buy and this is because the best things are for more than one person and go out of date quickly.
If you have trouble using up bread, slice it on the day of purchase and freeze it. It defrosts quickly, tastes just the same and will keep for months.
We over-indulge ourselves with food and it's absolutely absurd. In countries like the US most people are overweight because they consume too much food and most of it ends up in the trash. That's an act of greed and selfishness when you think about how many people dying of hunger when there's enough food to go around.
Barbara, Vicenza, Italy
I went to a Chinese 'buffet' and I was actually kicked out for eating 'too much'. I couldn't believe it. At the end the food will be thrown away.
I think that while there are starving people in the world, locally and abroad, the supermarkets could do more to clear their shelves of items nearing or just past use-by dates by giving them to hostels or shelters.
I live in North Lincs where the Council offered composters at discounted rates. Any food or garden waste is recycled on my property and not transported away.
Chris Robinson, Scunthorpe
Yes! I waste food. Modern packaging seems to be too attractive to be ignored and that pushes many of us to buy without checking 'dates'. Many of us buy what we really don't need.
Chigbu Eugene, Reading
Now that we've got our own chickens (just two of them) they get all of the leftover table scraps. And we get to enjoy the eggs!
Alison Riddell-Kachur, Bacharach, Germany
At least food is biodegradable, and its overproduction helps promote farming both here and abroad. I'm more concerned about all the packaging.
Paul Chorley, Edinburgh, Scotland
Supermarkets encourage shoppers to buy more than they intended with their "buy two get third free" nonsense. It's all got out of hand. Buy what you need and you won't throw much away.
In our home, we waste very little, mainly because we ignore "use by dates". I work on the "if it smells ok, we can eat it" theory and just use common sense.
I come from a generation that never wasted much. And what we don't eat winds up in the dog.
Tony, Welling, Kent
Yes, I'm sometimes wasteful of food. I don't feel bad though, I paid for it, didn't I?
Sarah Hardman, Brussels, Belgium (USA)
The UK supermarkets will force a UK supplier to throw away 10-15 tonnes of quality meat just because it arrives 1 degree C higher than their optimum temperature; or an entire container of grapes because there are a few brown ones. If it's not 'perfect' it gets dumped. It's a crime.
Steve Jones, Rugby
The way my husband eats, hardly anything is thrown away.
I don't take much notice of sell by dates, I trust my nose more! I hate wastage so I make a manky vegetable soup once a week to use up all the leftovers. The kids love it as they never know what they might find in it.
If Lord Haskins is saying that lots of food beyond its sell-by date is good to eat, what does he propose to do about it? Would it not be sensible for the government's adviser on food and farming to advise the adoption of more sensible regulations?
James Forder, Oxford
I find eating for one so prohibitive. If I want cheese, I have to eat a block within three days for example. I wish the supermarkets would tailor for smaller portions better.
Let's have a programme on how to deal with leftovers, educating overbuying consumers on how to save in the kitchen. We've got the skilled chefs, let's get back to good old British cooking.
Frank , Aberdeenshire
I try to use everything I buy. However, at least waste food itself is biodegradable. The real scandal is the massive amount of packaging, particularly plastics, that most food is wrapped in. The government should tackle this problem at source, by imposing limits on the amount of packaging used. We are all to blame for wanting "perfect" looking foods - why do we need to shrink-wrap fruit and veg, for example?
Karl Hunter, Liverpool
Supermarkets? Get your bread from the baker, your veg from the greengrocer and your meat from the butcher! I know its marginally less convenient but its fresher, lasts longer, can be bought in exactly the amount you want, they will appreciate your business and advise you on recipes, and shelf life! If you throw supermarket food away is it really cheaper?
Russell, Southampton, UK
Having easy lunch break access to small local shops has decreased our wastage considerably. I now buy what I need, when I need it, rather than making weekly, (highly stressful) trips to the supermarket, where we somehow always end up buying a lot more than we are actually able to use before the sell-by date. The slightly higher expense incurred by regular buying in small shops is more than compensated for by the lack of waste, and the far more pleasant shopping experience!
Sander, The Hague, The Netherlands
I notice a lot of people complaining that fresh fruit and vegetables go off quickly and so are difficult to use economically. Keeping produce in the fridge usually keeps them perfectly edible for much longer, particularly potatoes, carrots and apples, things that you don't automatically think to refrigerate.
Fi, Birmingham England
I put my hand up and agree. I'm ashamed to admit I probably waste a minimum of one third the food I buy. Although I do note that a lot of the food produced by the big supermarkets has a sell by date which fairly accurately identifies the timescale for a product to remain wholesome.
Walt Guthrie, Kirkcaldy, Scotland
Sell-by dates are a major contributor to this problem of waste both in the supermarkets and the home. Buy-one-get-one-free and other cheap offers on food encourage customers to purchase more than they actually require resulting in much of the food going out of date before it can be consumed. It can be no coincidence that firms like Tesco have announced record profits whilst customers buy more and more surplus food which ends up in the bin. Furthermore is there a regulatory body checking the life expectancy of food products? I suspect that many sell-by dates have shortened over recent years adding to the problem.
John R Tucker, Middlesbrough
I am 25-years-old and grew up in a family and village where, still conscious of the war, parents and teachers reminded us each time we threw away good food that 'children in Africa/India/China have nothing to eat and what you have thrown away would feed the whole family for a day'. It wasn't true, and it was patronising towards the countries mentioned, and probably not PC, but it does mean that even today I very rarely throw away food, am organised enough to keep to use-by dates and regularly have an entirely empty fridge by the time I go for weekly shopping.
I was considering that perhaps by throwing away all this food that is on the point of turning we may well also be weakening our immune systems. Whereas before small amounts of naturally occurring bacteria and toxins would have been recognised and dealt with by our bodies perhaps now we are actually making ourselves more prone to being seriously affected. Could it be that we are not building up the natural defences and antibodies that once we would have done at a young age? Are we actually weakening our gene pool with an over zealous approach to safe consumption?
J Clarke, Bristol
I try not to waste food. If something is past its sell-by date, then I'll still eat it, as long as it smells fine. The only thing I'm very wary of eating is meat, especially after the numerous scares we've had over the last ten years. I think waste can be reduced by educating people on how to cook using left-overs, and by teaching people to trust their senses with food, not the packet it came in. Also, stricter regulations must be applied to the food packing companies who make up the sell-by dates. There have been many scandals about cases where the dates have been made to show food is off when its not, so that people will buy more food sooner than they need to. Also, people should be encouraged to recycle their waste. In the case of food, a compost heap would relieve some of the pressure on our land-fill sites. Increased recycling should be promoted across the board, as our track record on this matter is appalling.
Margaret, Glasgow, Scotland
All the food in the supermarkets looks good, but has been kept in such a rarefied environment that as soon as it gets into the fresh air it goes off. This degeneration happens the minute bananas leave the shop and shiny tomatoes are dull and wrinkly almost by the time you get them home.
Jill, East Yorkshire
Sounds like it may be time for "Ready, Steady ... Leftovers" or Fridge Invaders?
Paul, The Cumbrian Wilderness, UK
You think the UK have got problems, just go and eat out in the US! There was one occasion in a Boston pizza restaurant when they made me a second full-sized pizza because the first one got squished in the oven and wasn't perfectly circular!
Al, Aldershot, UK
Food IS cheap. Why not throw it away if you don't fancy it? Life is too short to worry about saving every penny. In our current economic environment the cost of mortgages and the high level of taxation (estimated at about 80% in total) means that a few pounds on fresh, delicious food is a pittance in comparison. Eat, drink and enjoy life to the full!
Teach people how to cook - good cooks rarely have waste
How much "fresh" food is thrown away by supermarkets? I was once in charge of the fresh meat department of a supermarket branch, and was told that I had to ensure the chillers were filled at all times. If the meat was not sold, and had to be eventually thrown away, no-one cared. The important thing to that store manager was that there was plenty of available food. I believe market forces control a lot of the wastage that occurs.
Ian Law, Huddersfield, England
I have an organic fruit and veg box delivered every week, so I know I have to use all the fruit and veg in the house before the next box arrives. This means our food is always fresh. Also, I have to go to the supermarket much less often so it saves me money too.
Seeing people throw perfectly good food away makes me very angry since, with a bit of thought and imagination, its amazing what you can create from what at first may appear as a limited range of leftover and store cupboard ingredients. Some of my favourite meals are those created with leftovers, a bit of imagination and an open mind.
Jason Field, Hove, East Sussex
We are a household of two adults who work full time and have busy social lives. Every week a box of locally grown organic fruit and veg is delivered to our door which forms the basis of our meals, we then purchase meat, eggs and cheese from our local butcher and bread from the bakery as required. Towards the end of the week any tired looking veg can easily be turned into a nutritious tasty soup ideal for lunches. Minimal packaging is used and we don't throw away food. It is not difficult or expensive to live this way and is much more environmentally friendly not to mention better for us.
Emma, Bristol, UK
Having travelled many countries in the third world I feel we the British people have a cover over our eyes when it comes to hunger and food, as we take things for granted is appreciating how lucky we are to have a warm meal at the end of the day without having to work hard for it. Furthermore we don't realise that wasting food has effect on the people who are less fortunate than we are. Please wake up and understand what other people go through to keep alive.
Javaid Khan, Bradford
I live alone, but like most people like a good bargain. Every supermarket tempts us with buy one get one free, type of deals. We are obviously going to get these as they are a "bargain" and often don't cost any or much more. The problem is that we have to eat them by the sell by date (same meal two or three days in a row), or freeze some of it (freezer gets full so we throw it out or eventually it just looks horrible). I know that it is our choice whether we take these offers, but, in essence its free food. Maybe at the point of sale we can offer to donate the food to be frozen and re-distributed to council run care homes or homeless shelters for example. Obviously the supermarket pays for this to happen, I think they can afford it, don't you?
People in the UK cook far too little for themselves. Yes it may be due to busy lives, but how about cooking a load of food over the weekend and then freezing it for the busy nights? Growing up in Finland, surrounded by nature, I learnt from an early age also to respect the nature hence even today I try to avoid buying food in trays (mushrooms etc).
Using brown paper bags is not only ecological but you can also choose how many mushrooms etc you need and hopefully end up using them. We have to remember that this planet is not for us only - just think of the future generations. At this rate of throwing food and stuff straight to the bin, with no hint of even considering recycling, the future generations really won't be able to live on this planet.
Niina Kovalainen, Brighton, UK
Well, we waste almost nothing. I come from Pakistan and in most of the Asian cultures; food is always precious and a rather sacred commodity. In fact, a mother and food comes in the same category and by the way, we believe heaven is in the footsteps of one's mother. Therefore, wasting food always gives a kind of sinful feeling and is usually out of question. We even make an effort to feed extra food to birds etc.
There could be another social and emotional background to Asian's reluctance to bin their food. Food is usually cooked by a close family member and is also symbolic of their love. I guess in UK people need more awareness, more appreciation in non-money terms. I feel close family cooperation; cooking and eating healthy meals together can all contribute to less wastage and more quality life.
Naeem Syed, Dundee, UK
We throw very little away. With four children we cannot afford to buy what we are unlikely to use. Also, the majority of food we do throw away goes to our three chickens. Even living in a town, a few hens are possible, and make for a much less wasteful lifestyle - not to mention the marvellous eggs.
Graham Uff, Felixstowe, UK
When I go shopping, I only buy enough food for a day or two, when the food runs out, I do the same again. I find that by having less food in the house, it is more appreciated by the family. The problem with this society is that we indulge too much. This can partly be blamed on supermarkets who entice us to fill up our trolleys with multipacks and buy one get one free offers, but ultimately it is our greed which is governing us. My tip - before you go shopping, eat something so you are not hungry and allow your appetite to get the better of you!
Hamid, London, UK
There's nothing more disheartening when eating out than being served a portion of food no average person could finish. American greed culture has surfaced here and it's obscene.
To Mary, Oxford: Please note that yes, most portions are too large at restaurants in the US. But likewise it's common practice for your server to offer you a box to take home what remains and for most people to accept it. We always do. There is no need to automatically waste food. Is this not done in the UK?
Having chickens in the garden is a good way of ending up with no leftovers. There is also the bonus of some very delicious eggs from happy chickens, in effect recycling leftovers into eggs.
Sally, Hebden Bridge, UK
Buy fresh meat and vegetables from a local farm shop, because they're fresh and have no sell-by date. They're a lot better for you and you'd be surprised that a lot of it is cheaper than the supermarkets.
Innes Donaldson, Cardiff
It's worth remembering that best before doesn't mean will kill you immediately after. Some manufacturers probably even add a safety margin of a day or two anyway.
Paul D, Bristol
Having been brought up on fizzy coleslaw and mouldy cheese I am fastidious about sell-by dates, but I agree it's probably an over-reaction to my pparents' tendency never to throw anything away! Lifestyles are different now. When I go for a weekly shop it's guess work whether I will be working late that week or not, so inevitably if I am stuck in the office late every night some of the food is not edible by the time I get round to eating it.
It is hard to know how much leeway sell-by dates give us. I tend to ignore them for most things, but not for meat as I have been led to believe that this could be hazardous to my family's health. I would love to know when I should throw things away as I hate to see the waste.
The law has a lot to do with waste. It is true that sell-by dates play their part in there being a high wastage of food. I currently work selling produce and it is absolutely surprising how much produce we have to throw away because of the sell by date. Nine times out of 10 the food is in perfect condition but because of the risk of fines we abide by the law.
Matthew Gillespie, Greenwich, London
Living on my own means that I waste a lot of food I'm afraid. It would take me over a week to eat a whole loaf of bread and by that time, it's gone mouldy (I am impressed though that Tescos have recently introduced a half loaf which is really handy). Fresh fruit and veg goes off so quickly before I get a chance to eat it so it does all end up in the bin. The only alternative is to shop more often - but with a full time job and a pretty hectic life, this is not something I want to start doing.
Caroline, Southampton, UK
I very rarely throw anything away. Some leftovers go to my cats, some go to the birds on my bird table and some to the fox that visits my garden. I hate wasting either food or water and am very careful about both. I make a point of eating everything I put on my plate! I think we all need to be much more careful about the resources of this planet, especially as millions of people don't have enough food or water!
Rajia Nash, Woodford Green, Essex, UK
I'm terrible for eat-by dates. If it's a day over, or even on the same day, I throw it in the bin! I can't help myself!
Elain Hardege, Belfast
Sell-by and use-by dates should only be treated as a guide, since they will always tend to err on the side of caution. If the food is past the use-by date but looks alright, I try smelling and then tasting it before making a decision on whether or not it's edible. It's the method our ancestors would have used, in the absence of date codes, and it's never let me down yet.
Martin Higgs, Twickenham
I have long suspected that the food industry and supermarkets use the sell-by date to up sales by making people suspect food is not 'safe'. Also the 'consume within x days of opening' is also contributory - but what should you do? Without clear guidance how does the average consumer know what is safe?
Keith Edwards, Shrewsbury, UK
I find that a great deal of food goes bad because it's already old by the time it gets to the shops. A loaf of bread might have a use-by date less than three days from purchase, and will be inedible a day after that. The same goes for meat, milk and vegetables.
Ben, Newcastle Upon Tyne
Restaurants should provide smaller portions and charge less for them - then we wouldn't eat too much or throw as much away
I think more importance has to be placed on the use-by rather than the sell-by date. We throw very little away, as we place importance on the use-by date - extending this to food we freeze. If the use-by is a week after sell-by, then you still have a week when you defrost. If more importance was placed on when food had to be eaten, then waste would be cut down.
Bob Pickett, Ilford, UK
I don't think I have ever finished a meal without leaving at least 20% of it. It's a massive waste but I think it's down to a psychological eating disorder. I pay attention to sell-by dates and get paranoid when eating meat, especially after the surge of recent TV programs regarding mishandling of meat products, even by massive supermarkets who should know better. Restaurants should offer a service of smaller portions and charge less for the 'petit' meals.
Rakesh, West Midlands
We throw away very little food because we don't overbuy. We don't buy processed food, we are not obsessed with sell-by dates and we are very imaginative about using up leftovers in dishes which take only minutes to prepare.
Sarah, Bedford, UK
When we first got married two years ago, we were buying a lot of food per week and ended up throwing an awful amount away. Now, we don't shop at the superstores anymore and just buy from local grocers as and when we need to. This means we save a lot of money, we don't throw anything away anymore, and products are used before the sell by date, however we're not averse to using something if it is a day or two after the date. In a supermarket, you see people with overfull large trolleys and wonder where they put it all. It isn't necessary to buy so much just for one week. I think people need to take a step back and relax when it comes to shopping; they can save a lot of money with a bit of planning and reduce waste by buying only what they really need!
Leila Jerman, Manchester, UK
I throw away very little now. In recent years I've started to enjoy cooking, so even bones and carcasses can be used. But I suspect whilst snacks and meals can be found at any time of day, reducinng waste and the amount of food the population throws away will prove difficult. Regarding sell-by dates - it could be that people are unfamiliar with food and ingredients, which must affect their general feel for a food's condition with the result being people's reliance on sell-by dates.
"We're obsessed with sell-by dates, so that we throw away perfectly good food which happens to be out of code." Not in this house, we're not. Lamb chops improve with keeping, not to mention brie and camembert which only become edible after the expiry date. Chicken pieces tend to be cooked a bit longer when past use-by. Eggs can be tested by putting them in a glass of water. If they sink with no bias - poach. If it sinks but one end stays higher, boil or scramble. Only if it floats is it discarded for the benefit of the foxes. With a supermarket 200 yards away which reduces its prices for short-dated food, we do rather well by shopping little and often. Which doesn't mean no waste, but does keep the bill down to start with. Always having to get a car-load at a time would be inefficient. The big niggle is having a waste-bin usually full of un-recyclable food packaging. The local market is a better for this. Moral - keep it local.
Peter T, Godalming
As a society we increasingly live alone and so a loaf that a family would polish off may be going bad before one person on their own eats it all.
Jen, Manchester, UK
I look at use-by dates but I don't bin things just because they have passed it. If it looks and smells OK I eat it! (and no, I haven't had an upset stomach in a long time)
Emily Whitehead, Oxford, UK
I hate to see food wasted. We store anything that can be reused in the fridge immediately. Anything else disappears into the stomachs of two very eager four-legged dustbins, otherwise known as dogs! Seriously though, there is no need to waste any food, if nothing else put it on the bird table before the dustbin!
I apply the "look and sniff" test. If food has been handled and stored properly, even when it is past its sell-by date, there should be no reason to throw it out unnecessarily. After all, most of our predecessors survived, even without fridges.
I'm disgusted by these statistics, what a load of wasteful greedy people we are. I try to eat all the food I purchase, but one must be a little bit careful - I've been hospitalised after eating a mouldy veggie burger that was left in a tent for a week in summer. What I learnt from that is that if there's more than an inch of mould, it's best to bin it.
Hugh, London, UK
The only food that is thrown away in our house is the vegetable peelings. These are taken to the end of the garden and composted - the compost is then used to grow more vegetables. Leftovers from meals (which are rare) are put in the fridge and eaten for lunch the following day.
Sell-by dates no doubt help retaillers rotate stocks properly and prevent consumers eating dangerously old produce. But I can't help thinking it has all gone too far. Not so long ago, you would buy a pot of jam, store it in the larder at room temperature and keep it until it was all used up. Now every jar seems to carry the label 'refrigerate after opening and consume within six weeks'. Is this really necessary?
John, Rye, UK
Having recently moved to the North Somerset area, the local council has introduced food recycling boxes. Two boxes are provided, one small for everyday use and a larger lockable box which is collected every week. I grew up in a time when every house had compost or such like. If you could see how much I throw away, it does make you stop and think a little more. This is a great idea and should be implemented around the country. Well done Mendip! Having Greek family connections, they have a pertinent saying "Whatever you leave on your plate, this is your strength you throw away"
Jules, Somerset, UK
The packaging on all foods should be reduced. Everything is double wrapped to avoid damage in transit and to allow easy storage on shelves. However if you go to your local butcher or baker they simply use a single bag to hold the produce. Our children are the worst for sell-by dates but we live in a brainwashed disposable society these days which is hard to change overnight. Perhaps legislation or fines on supermarkets should be imposed in an attempt to reduce the amount of overall packaging on food. Introducing charging for refuse collection from domestic customers is another option as in the commercial sector but this would target the end user and not deal with the source of the problem. It needs cooperation throughout the food chain to work. Perhaps a government initiative like the anti smoking or drink driving may help.
Ian Redfern, Rotherham
I agree 100% with this report. Sell-by dates should be used as a guide, food does not just go off on the sell-by date. We existed for thousands of years without sell-by dates. People used their eyes and noses to tell whether food was edible and personally I still do. We are extremely wasteful in this country, we treat food like a bottomless pit, yet, as we do this, half the world starves to death. What ever happened to common sense?
Nigel Fletcher, UK
Clearly, some householders are driving up this (disturbing) average figure. I was brought up to clear plates and never waste a morsel; I was genuinely put out when the end of a cucumber went off in my fridge a few months back! Or if it's the catering industry, I'd suggest restaurantss be obliged to parcel all leftovers for Shelter and other such charities.
Stu Maddison, Ealing
I used to follow use-by/sell-by dates strictly but have come to the conclusion that they are about supermarkets wanting us spend more by imposing unrealistically short time periods on the fresh food they sell, leading to good food being thrown away and extra visits to the shops. Either that or it's their fear of a lawsuit from a consumer who eats in-date food but becomes ill. I have taken recycling to heart in all aspects of my life including food, and it's amazing what you can do with leftover food - just add imagination! My current favourite is that old classic, bubble and squeak - using all the leftovers from a roast meal, frying it up in a frying pan and cracking an egg onto the top to cook slowly all the way through. A great meal that takes no preparation time, is pretty healthy and cuts down on waste. Perfect.
Jason Skelton, Dedham
Our obsession with 'sell by dates' is extreme. Manufacturers are scared silly we will sue them if our lamb chop has 'gone off', and so they play it ultra safe. My Grandma used to say "we all eat a lot of muck before we die". If only we could go back to those days when life was a bit of a lottery, but so much more fun!
I do two or three small, targeted shops whereas my parents do one weekly one. Their fridge is so full they can't see what's in it and they don't plan meals preferring to rely on choosing something. And at the end of the week they throw away what has gone off but I seldom have to throw anything away.
Rachel, Lewes, UK
We throw away very little. Growing up in a rural farming background makes you appreciate more. It also means you make the most of everything - a roast chicken makes several meals and the carcass gets cooked down for delicious soup. Apart from that we have a Springer spaniel who eats any leftovers before they reach the bin!
When we lived in the UK and did big supermarket shops we found we were throwing a huge amount of food away. Some of this was due to badly miscalculating our requirements (how can you really plan for cooking a week or two away?), some due to poor shelf-life - such as potatoes bought on Saturday gone green by Tuesday. A switch to using local farm shops and shopping small, cured this problem, and here in France we use the weekly markets, spend a fraction of what we used to spend in the UK, and throw almost nothing away.
Andrew Rose, France
It's only in the last couple of weeks that my girlfriend has managed to convinced me that use-by dates often aren't worth the package their printed on! Unless food looks or smells rotten the use-by date can often be safely ignored. Is this another example of supermarkets trying to scare us into more visits to their stores than we really need?
Colin Morris, Manchester
We generally prepare the right amount of food and our family were brought up to eat what was put in front of them - that reduces waste. We grow a lot of our own fruit and veg, so we can eat fresh food as we need it. I pay little attention to sell-by dates - I realise that producers err on the side of caution when devising these dates. Seeing the amounts of food left over at parties, restaurants etc makes me very cross. As a family, we see all our food as a gift from God and we thank him each time we have a meal. As a nation, we do not recognise that He exists, let alone thank him for the way He provides us with "our daily bread".
Andrew Stone, Wiltshire
Generally it is very unusual for my family to throw food away. However, as with all statistics, I would take it with a pinch of salt. I think it is a bit rich for a government advisor to criticise the public for being "risk adverse" when it's the government and EU that are making us like that.
Although we do buy a lot of food and my two littlee monsters don't always eat their food, none goes to waste. My 7-year-old border collie will quiet happily eat most things.
Mark Wood, Brighouse
Call me stingy if you will, but if I've paid for it, I eat it! We only discard what cannot possibly be re-used for health reasons. However, if supermarkets insist on encouraging people to buy more by making bulk-packing substantially more attractive, more food will be "going off" in people's larders and fridges due to miscalculated attempts to economise.
Tony Fisk, Over Wallop
I do throw stuff away because as a single person you can't always buy in small enough amounts and you don't want to eat the same thing too many times in a row! I hate wasting food as I appreciate both the cost to myself and the awful thought that others are starving, but I can't help being caught up in this society of waste. As for sell-by dates - nearly all food is obviously either ok to eat or 'going off'. I use the dates as a guide, but always check whether in date or not. Your taste buds / nose are very sensitive machines that easily know the difference if you can be bothered.
My boyfriend constantly throws out food because it is out of date, which I think is plain ridiculous. I always make a point of feeding him out of date toast, eggs, bacon etc (quietly) and he not only doesn't complain about the taste, he prefers my cooking to his own! He took some out of date apples to some horses in a field and nearly choked one! We need to learn to look at food, touch it, smell it and not just read it.
Rebecca Robinson, Glasgow, Scotland
This is a throw away age. A lot of people now do not even know how to cook & just buy it ready done, and the leftovers go in the dustbin. Not much goes to waste in our house, but then my wife cooks. As a child I remember the stock pot, a base for many cheap but very nourishing & tasty soups and stews, but these days they even build flats without proper kitchens.
It horrifies me when I go to stay with friends in the UK when I see how much food is thrown away. Living in a country where food isn't taken for granted and many people can only just afford to buy the very basics has made me so conscious of using up every scrap. I never throw away even a tablespoon of peas! I have a continuous soup pot going which means that I never use packet soup or stock cubes and have a constant supply of natural, delicious stock whenever I need it. It is just as quick to throw leftovers in a saucepan as it is to throw them in tthe bin.
Judy Youssef, Cairo, Egypt
I do throw away a lot of food, although I have pets who do eat some of the leftovers. Everyone needs to be re-educated in the art of keeping and cooking leftovers, because of fears I never eat food that is even one day out of date, and am reluctant to keep opened food in the fridge for fear of it going off, and harming my family. It may sound daft, but I would appreciate classes or advice on cooking normal food that my children will eat.
The most significant problem with food wastage is our desire for good looking food. We need to change our attitudes and allow our taste buds dictate what we buy. Throwing away half eaten meals is actually a very good thing. For too long we have lived with the sounds of our parents warnings to clear our plates, people are starving and would eat that etc.. All it has done has caused nationwide obesity. We need to get back to the point of food. It has to taste good and feed us.
As a single adult, food wastage is never an issue for me. I buy enough only for myself, and I'm responsible enough for the food that I buy. Since I am the one paying for everything that I eat, I ensure none of it goes to waste. Sell-by dates are only a guideline for food consumption; however I don't "stockpile" food for weeks on end. I purchase only what I need for the next few days. Today's world means there is always a local supermarket open whenever you need it, should you require something. So why stockpile food for weeks or months at a time?
Christopher Powick, London
I try to use up leftovers as much as possible. I put some in the compost bin, any meat my mums dogs have. I have been more careful with food wastage and rubbish recently, I have been trying to grow some of my own veggies. I have been using local farmers markets more; the veggies are not perfect but just as good. To reduce waste will be hard as people are used to waste and cannot be bothered to recycle or make up food with leftovers like was done in our parents' times. Supermarkets should offer smaller packs of their items: not every one wants huge amounts of stuff.
It would help if food were also packaged in realistic single portions as well as family-sized packages. Those who only cook for themselves tend to find that they have to buy more than they are able to eat alone due to the way that supermarkets and producers package their products. The only alternative for these people is to buy ready-meals all the time.
We used throw out at least a third of our weekly shop so we decided to try food shopping every second week instead as we live close to a supermarket. I know this is not an option for everyone, but it does mean that we buy food on an 'as required' basis, have virtually no wastage and don't have to worry about sell-by dates.
Sarah, Glasgow, Scotland
I have never paid attention to sell-by dates except where poultry is concerned. If it smells bad it's binned. I always do something with leftovers and can't abide seeing good food go to waste. It does help that I have 2 cats willing to eat almost anything that's going. Too often, these days I see people buying products, using them once then leaving them sitting in the fridge for weeks and then chucking them. Why can't they plan a couple of pasta meals in the same week or even make extra and take the leftovers to work? People are just too lazy.
Sally Kay, London, UK
I think it is a shocking statistic about the amount of food wasted in the UK. I would be very interested to know what the statistics are from the hospitality industry. I would be willing to bet, having worked in many restaurants, that the majority of waste comes from hospitality businesses. Perhaps they should be offered incentives not to waste food and have some sort of system to avoid unnecessary waste if possible. Large catering companies are the worst culprits and have terrible recycling practices too!
Scott Fraser, Edinburgh, Scotland
I am very conscious of the amount of food that I do throw away and quite often feel guilty about it. A lot of this is because the quantity in packets is often too much and it is difficult to use it all when only cooking for two. Sell-by dates are often very cautious too and I find that things kept wrapped in Clingfilm, in the fridge are still good at least a week afterwards.
Toby Simons, London
I never throw any food away. I only cook what I can eat, but on the rare occasions I can't finish a meal, I either save it for the following day, or feed it to my dogs. I certainly can't afford to waste money like that, and I know several others in the same boat. As for sell by dates, I think they're a big con. If food looks and smells fresh then eat it! After all, cooking it will kill off any bacteria!
K Brown, Bristol
I try not to throw away food and to buy only what I need. However, I am single and it is often difficult to buy the food I like in the smaller quantities I require unless I am prepared to pay over the odds for it; for example small loaves of bread are often just as expensive as large ones. I generally ignore use-by dates on food like milk and bread. A big problem I have found is that food is sold with only a very short period of time until its use-by date, leaving very little time to eat it all.
Karen Adams, Willingdon
I throw away nothing. I plan what I want to eat, I buy enough for the week and I eat it. I compost what I don't use in cooking (leaves, peelings). I also cook my own meals so don't use packaged meals - that helps cut down on packaging waste. And finally, I eat to stay in shape so I don't buy or eat too much. The answer is: buy less and eat less. It's not that hard!
Nigel Gaen, Cardiff, Wales
If we learned to grow food ourselves, where practically possible; or if we effectively taught kids where and how food is grown then I'm sure we'd all value it more. "Jamie's School Dinners" has shown that direct education works with kids. Try asking a kid to eat an apple which you've just sprayed with pesticide!
Joe Higham, Saffron Walden
Having been raised in Africa, I try not to throw food out at all, and use up fresh foods as soon as possible. Also I was disturbed by last week's "The Apprentice" on BBC2 - I was horrified to see one of the teams throwing away a huge amount of venison soup that they had been unable to sell at a farmer's market. Was anyone else disturbed by this? What about all the homeless/hungry out there? Take the unsold soup to a soup kitchen!
Kate, Bath, UK
Buy fresh and smaller portions.
Maggie, Cardiff, Wales
I love buying food from the 'stale but edible' counter in Tesco, it saves me a fortune and I haven't had food poisoning in 10years!
Steve Burris, Birmingham
Having had periods of extreme poverty when my children were small, I throw away very little previously cooked food. Any vegetable matter which is left over goes to feed the worms in my wormery. However, I am a light eater and am often put off by the amount of food on my plate when I eat out. It seems that quantity equals quality in some eyes.
I definitely think this is due to people not having the cooking skills which would allow them to cook at home rather than eat out, and to use up leftovers such as stale bread and soft fruit. I also think it's because there are so many people cooking for just themselves: it is very difficult to cook efficiently when there is just one person eating. I try not to waste things but because I often cook for myself, I don't use fresh produce in time, or make too much of something which can't be re-heated.
Ella, Oxford, UK
We used to throw away a lot of food, but now we plan our meals each week, and only buy the food that we require. This has drastically reduced the amount of food we discard.
Gareth, Birmingham, UK
As a postgraduate student I throw away almost zero food, instead I freeze many things such as meat, chicken, vegetables and even bread. I always freeze leftovers such as pasta sauce, soup and rice. I could not live without my freezer and feel it is a much underused tool in the British home, my motto is: don't bin it! Freeze it!
Kevin Cook, Edinburgh, UK
Lord Haskins is effectively encourages us to eat out of date foods, which is irresponsible at best and dangerous at worst.
Cristen, London, England
I buy my shopping once a week and most of the items of food that I end up throwing away are fruit and vegetables that spoil within a day or two of purchase, often before their sell by dates. I now shop in two different supermarkets each week so that I have a better chance of getting the quality and variety that I want. From experience I know nnot to buy certain items from particular supermarkets as the quality is not as good as other places.
One problem is the way food is packaged. I love carrots but we don't get through them very fast and they go off fairly quickly. I have found that it's cheaper to buy a 5 lb bag of 'value' (class II) carrots and throw away half of them, rather than buy the 2 lb of carrots I actually expect to use - because loose vegetables or smaller bags are class I and much more expensive. I can't afford to reduce my wastage!
I try to buy only what I need, but do end up having to work away from home or going for dinner. I do follow use-by dates so some of my food does go off. As I buy a lot of fresh foods, I tend to compost a lot. If I do have something that needs to be used up quickly I would invite friends around for dinner or cook and freeze it for another time.
Tania Ramesar, Halifax
Most of the larger supermarkets have a reduced area for their near to date products. I use this area to "sample" items that would be extremely expensive if bought at their full price. It has also become a hobby to try and cater a meal for as cheaply as possible from this area. However a number of my friends and family were horrified when they realised I was doing this, they are so obsessed with sell-by dates and the fear of poisoning their families that they don't even think about using leftovers. Media hype has given people a lack of trust in their own instinct about good and bad food. As a society we can not continue with this waste, the environment can not support it.
Rosie, Belfast, Northern Ireland
The real problem is that many people no longer actually cook real meals. The convenience culture has taken over from older habits of home cooking and thrift. Take-aways, eating out and microwave ready meals are more wasteful, as there's a tendency to buy too much in one go, and throw out what can't be eaten immediately. In our home we are fans of home cooking and slow food. Not only does it taste good, but the leftovers are great the next day. And it costs a lot less than convenience food. To my mind this is best way to avoid wasting so much food. All it takes is a little time and enthusiasm.
Chris, Edinburgh, Scotland
I throw almost nothing away - and have never done otherwise. I think that it is despicable to throw out food when so many people around us are desperate for a proper meal. I have followed the BBC's cookery programmes with great interest over the years and have been thinking that a series of programmes about how to use leftovers would be a great idea.
Claire Butler, Brussels,, Belgium
Aye tek ma neeps and tatties and I chook them oonder the gannet for furuter use aeee 'under ta dishhhhstacker.
Buhmphace McBohkies, Bonnie Scotland
People are far too obsessed with sell-by dates. Food didn't used to have sell-by dates; what's wrong with people that they can't look at something or give it a sniff and see if it's off? A bit of common sense wouldn't go amiss. And as for leftovers - put them in a plastic tub and take them to work next day for lunch. Yum yum.
The first item I always end up throwing out are Clementine oranges, as at least one or two already have white mould before they have even left the store. Other vegetables such as lettuce also seem to have "brown rot" before they have even left the shelves. And recently, red, orange and yellow peppers seem to have been reduced in size and have become blotchy. Due to my long commute, I can only do my food shopping during the weekends, so things start to exceed their sell-by-date close to the end of the week. I try to preserve foods by keeping them in the fridge, but that usually ends up with items becoming "lost" for weeks and having to be thrown out. Otherwise, items such as vegetables go off within a day or two, and have to be thrown out without being consumed.
I also think some of the supermarkets don't help the issue as they tend to put out stock that needs to be sold or cleared within a few days. Many times we have done our shopping, and when I go to the fridge three or four days later some food items are already out of date. The general public also needs some advice as to what can be frozen, how long can it be frozen, and how long after thawing can it be kept.
Andrew Watts, Cardiff
I never throw away food. I only buy what I know I will eat. Leftovers are either frozen, eaten for lunch the next day or given to my dog. You can tell if food has gone bad by the colour and the smell - sell-by dates are only to cover the retailers. Waste can be reduced by educating people better. I am appalled by some of my friends and the waste they produce. I don't understand why people throw money away because they can't be bothered, which is all this basically comes down to.
On the day I found myself chucking away an out of date packet of smoked salmon and most of the contents of my vegetable draw in my fridge I resolved to try and do better! We are on a tight budget and I was disgusted by how much food we were wasting, and I had images of actual money going into the bin rather than the food. Since then we have brought a new fridge (which seems to keep things fresher for longer) and I plan my meals weekly to ensure that leftovers become my lunch at work and we make good use of the food that we buy. It has helped enormously and now we throw away about 2% of what we buy. Getting a juicer has also helped to clear out our fruit and vegetable leftovers rather than leaving them to decompose gracefully in the fruit bowl!