Page last updated at 12:26 GMT, Monday, 7 July 2008 13:26 UK

Stop wasting food, Brown urging

Gordon Brown
Mr Brown wants to see African production of key food stuffs increase

Britons must stop wasting food in an effort to help combat rising living costs, Gordon Brown has said as world leaders discuss rising prices

The PM said "unnecessary" purchases were contributing to price rises, and urged people to plan meals in advance and store food properly.

A government study says the UK wastes 4m tonnes of food every year, adding 420 to a family's shopping bills.

Food prices and the world economy are to dominate the G8 summit in Japan.


The gathering also gave Mr Brown a chance to hold his first bilateral meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and raise recent "difficult issues" between the two nations.

The BBC's Jon Kay sifts through a food waste mountain in Bristol

The Cabinet Office report claims that up to 40% of food harvested in developing countries can be lost before it is consumed, due to the inadequacies of processing, storage and transport.

The food policy study also says the average UK household throws away 8 of leftovers a week, yet spends 9% of its income on food.

But there is a significant gap between the poorest tenth of the population, who spend 15% and the wealthiest, who pay out 7%.

Those on lower incomes also spend proportionally more on basics such as milk, eggs and bread - foods that have seen the biggest price rises in recent months.

According to the 10-month study, British families are throwing away a total of 4.1m tonnes of perfectly good food every year, costing each about 420 annually.

It is right to remind people that about 8 a week is wasted in our food consumption
Prime Minister Gordon Brown

It also concludes more research is needed into whether the production of biofuels will cause food prices to increase further.

Speaking to reporters, Gordon Brown said the G8 needed to agree a "global plan" to tackle the issue.

"People recognise that the high food prices in Britain - the price of bread, the price of eggs, the price of milk - this is happening all over the world and we have got to have a global solution to what is a global problem," he said.

"We have got to get the price of food down through cutting the tariffs and subsidies in Europe and America, so we need a world trade deal.

"We have proposed that we double food production in Africa so that they can sell to the rest of the world as well.

"It is right to remind people that about 8 a week is wasted in our food consumption and we could do better at home as well."

Aid pledges

Food will feature highly on a G8 agenda of issues including global economic turbulence, record oil prices, climate change and international aid.

African leaders will join talks with G8 counterparts amid efforts to get previous G8 pledges to double aid by 2050 - notably to Africa - back on track.

UK Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said: "What we are trying to get across is there is this complex relationship between what we buy, the amount, waste, the impact on climate change and the impact on our health."

Has Prudence left the Treasury to move into the nation's kitchens?
Nick Robinson
BBC political editor

Friends of the Earth food campaigner Kirtana Chandrasekaran said tackling food waste was important, but only part of the solution. She called instead for changes to policies on biofuels and international trade.

She said there was "more and more evidence" that biofuels were bad for the environment, worsening climate change and leading to deforestation.

And Sustain, an alliance of organisations working for better food and farming, urged supermarkets to stop promoting unnecessary purchases, which they say results in a lot of food "going to waste".

Shadow environment secretary Peter Ainsworth said government departments should set a better example.

"The amount of untouched food that ends up in our bins is staggering but also financially and environmentally wasteful," he said.

"But while the government is telling households to reduce food waste it has no idea how much food it is throwing away itself. This is yet again a clear case of the government saying 'do as we say not as we do'."

"The government must also face up to its role in stimulating demand for unsustainable biofuels which mounting evidence suggests is contributing to escalating world food prices."

Steve Webb, the Lib Dem environment spokesman, said: "The problem of food waste has been made worse by the government's failure to get tough with supermarkets. Its cosy relationship with the big chains has stalled effective action.

"Supermarkets make it harder for householders to avoid food waste, while throwing away large quantities of edible food through poor stock management.

"They refuse to stock small portions, which are essential for the growing number of one-person households, and offer too many buy-one-get-one-free deals on perishable goods."


Tonnes wasted every year % weight of all avoidable food waste
1 Potatoes 359,000 9.7%
2 Bread slices 328,000 8.8%
3 Apples 190,000 5.1%
4 Meat or fish mixed meals 161,000 4.2%
5 World breads (e.g. naan, tortilla) 102,000 2.7%
6 Vegetable mixed meals 96,000 2.6%
7 Pasta mixed meals 87,000 2.3%
8 Bread rolls/baguettes 86,000 2.3%
9 Rice mixed meals 85,000 2.3%
10 Mixed meals 85,000 2.3%

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