tristram stuart

The Groceries Code Adjudicator should be “empowered” to prevent retailers shirking liability for food surplus, according to waste campaigner Tristram Stuart.

Speaking at an event organised by the Evening Standard as part of its Food for London campaign, the Feedback founder accused supermarkets of purposefully “inserting a middleman” between themselves and suppliers to avoid shared responsibility for surplus created from incorrect forecasts or over-ordering.

Currently the Groceries Supply Code of Practice (GSCOP) only prevents this occurring where retailers share a direct relationship with suppliers.

“The GCA needs improving,” said Stuart at the panel event, which was also attended by chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Sainsbury’s CEO Mike Coupe and Wrap director Richard Swannell.

“All a supermarket needs to do to get round this legislation is to insert a middleman between them and a supplier and a lot of this carries on through the back door,” Stuart claimed.

However, Coupe strongly rejected the claim. “I don’t recognise what you’re describing,” he said. “You’re completely misrepresenting what the Competition Commission actually found. We use lots of middlemen but we have fantastic relationships with the farmers. Some of your extreme charges don’t apply in our supply chain, it gets blown out of all proportion.”

The role and powers of the GCA are currently under review by the Department of Business, Innovation & Skills amid calls to extend the body’s remit, and Stuart called on the government to use this opportunity to tighten up controls on accountability for surplus food.

As The Grocer has highlighted in its ongoing Waste Not Want Not campaign, “food waste at the back of stores is a tiny percentage of the waste being caused further upstream, where supermarkets use their power to dump waste on suppliers,” the waste campaigner added.

This week the FDF revealed plans to tackle food waste under its new Ambition 2025 proposals, including a pledge that no food would be sent to landfill from 2016.

“As a signatory of Courtauld 2025, FDF is committed to a 20% per capita reduction in UK food and drink waste by 2025,” it said.