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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 April 2005, 13:59 GMT 14:59 UK
Saving food from going to waste
By Liam Allen
BBC News

New figures show about a third of food grown for human consumption in the UK ends up being thrown away. What can be done to reduce this excessive waste?

Peppers
Fare Share shares out surplus food

National charity Fare Share redistributes quality surplus food.

It says the whopping 12,000 meals it provides for homeless and vulnerable people each day is "just the tip of the iceberg" of what could be used.

Eight Fare Share schemes operate across the UK, with 250 local charities taking part.

Its marketing director Alex Green has praise for the 100-plus companies that give it food that would otherwise have been thrown away.

If your shareholders realised all your products weren't being used, it would be like washing your dirty linen in public
Fare Share

But there were "lots of other big companies" who "deny they've got any waste at all", he told the BBC News website.

"Historically, if your shareholders realised all your products weren't being used, it would be like washing your dirty linen in public."

Food is given to Fare Share when it is still within its sell by date but could not be distributed to a supermarket in time to be sold in date.

'Good sense'

The food industry sometimes had to put "very, very healthy" use-by dates on products because of "really tight legislation", Mr Green said.

"But when I was a boy, my mum was the use by date," he added.

Antony Worrall Thompson
We tend to believe food lasts for ever and then we go and buy these two-for-one offers and we don't use it up
Antony Worrall Thompson

Celebrity chef Antony Worrall Thompson said people were too quick to throw food out.

"There's nothing wrong with mouldy cheese, just cut the mould off," he told BBC News.

"That's what it's all about - it's just bacteria."

He said it was "good sense" to use leftovers.

"All that is required is a bit of time and imagination," he said.

"I remember in the old days, when you got a big joint on Sunday.

"You'd have cold meat on Monday, cottage pie or shepherds pie on Tuesday, curry on Wednesday and so it would go on until you got a bit of fish on Friday."

'Chuckaway society'

In the past, people were forced to find inventive ways to reuse food because of limited refrigeration, he said.

But now: "The trouble is we tend to believe food lasts for ever and then we go and buy these two-for-one offers and we don't use it up."

The amount of food waste indicated a "chuckaway society", he said.

Efforts to reduce landfill in the UK are also being hampered by excessive food waste, according to environmentalists.

Many European countries collect separate food waste which is then sent for composting.

'More collections'

Councils in a handful of local authorities, including Harrow and Enfield, have recently started separate collections.

We do need more collections of food waste, partly to deal with the amount of general waste that we have and also to comply with an EU directive to divert bio-degradable waste from landfill sites
Friends of the Earth

A significant reduction in the amount of waste sent for landfill could be achieved if more followed suit, Friends of the Earth says.

Recycling campaigner Georgina Bloomfield said: "We do need more collections of food waste - partly to deal with the amount of general waste that we have, and also to comply with an EU directive to divert bio-degradable waste from landfill sites."

It would be "even better" for people to compost at home, she added.

A Defra review of the collection of food waste could also increase the scope for composting.

Call me stingy if you will, but if I've paid for it, I eat it!
Tony Fisk

At the moment, any catering waste which contains meat must be destroyed so that livestock and wild birds cannot come into contact with it.

A Defra spokeswoman said it was reviewing the current rules in light of new findings that the risk to health was low.

Current legislation did not apply to composting at home, she added.


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