Big stores’ food chains blamed for waste

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Supermarket supply chains are responsible for much of the “global scandal” of food waste, campaigners warned as they kicked off a series of free meal events highlighting the issue.

Around a third of the food produced around the world is wasted and while consumers are often labelled the worst offenders in rich countries, investigations by UK-based campaigners reveal that the food industry is the main source of the problem.

Campaign group Feeding the 5000’s founder Tristram Stuart said blaming consumers was “a distortion of the facts” and that most official statistics leave out waste hidden from the public eye across the food supply chain.

For example, “ugly” fruit and vegetables rejected on farms or in packhouses because they do not meet specific cosmetic requirements can amount to 30 per cent of the harvest, and sometimes as much as half of what has been produced.

Investigations by Feeding the 5000 found Kenyan farmers supplying UK and European supermarkets are being forced to throw away as much as two-fifths of what they grow, in a country where more than a million people do not have enough to eat.

A global campaign to highlight the issue is being launched today as Feeding the 5,000 cooks up a meal for thousands of people in Amsterdam from fresh produce that would otherwise be wasted.

Free meals will also be handed out to 5,000 members of the public in cities including Lisbon, Sydney and New York to launch national campaigns with grassroots groups, charities, governments and international bodies.

Mr Stuart said: “The message peddled by supermarkets and ... some international institutions, that in rich countries most food waste comes from consumers, is a distortion of the facts. The reality is that the supply chain is the main source of preventable food waste.”