What’s in the bin stays there

The UK food and drink industry is among the world’s most efficient, supplying an extensive range of fresh and ambient food products from around the world.  Despite industry efforts a significant amount of food is wasted every year.   

WRAP, the government agency responsible for improving resource efficiency, estimates that the overall value of food waste from the food and drink supply chain is approximately £1.9 billion a year. 

domestic food waste 

With more people using food banks than ever before the justification for reducing food waste has never been greater, and there are some fantastic examples of how food businesses, charities and government are reducing food waste. 

Tesco, the biggest supermarket retailer in the UK, announced in early 2016 that it was implementing a nationwide scheme to redirect millions of meals of surplus food to charity by end of 2017. 

In 2015 South Derbyshire District Council participated in a trail, funded by Sainsburys, to test new ideas to cut food waste.  The aim of the South Derbyshire project is to cut the town’s food waste by 50% in a year, with solutions that are scalable so they can be rolled out nationally. 

Food waste must be paramount in any project to prevent or reduce food waste.  Use-by dates and correct storage conditions cannot be compromised in order to reduce food waste.  Doing so could harm the health of individuals consuming the food, and damage the reputations of the organisations involved. In some quarters there is the mistaken belief that food disposed of in bins, often bins associated with retail premises, is safe to consume. 

The CIEH, as a leading environmental health organisation, firmly refutes such ideas.  If food is in the bin it should stay in the bin. Food disposed of in a bin may be past its use-by date, and if it is will be too risky to eat. 

Temperature control is fundamentally important to ensuring food safety, especially of fresh products like meat and sandwiches.  Food in the bin may not have been refrigerated prior to disposal, and will not have been temperature controlled while sitting in the bin. Food within its use-by date, but not stored at the correct temperature, will be too risky to eat. 

Food waste is an important issue and there is an important role for environmental health professionals to support collaborative initiatives between food businesses and charities to ensure food saved is safe food.  

Article by Eoghan Daly (@Eoghan_LDN)  

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