Yet again, the media has sunk its teeth into the food industry. Following the recent House of Lords report on food waste, which recommended a series of changes to ensure more fit-for-consumption food is diverted to people in need, the media chose to pick up on only one: getting rid of bogofs.

The food industry is lucky that the media has not really gone for the jugular. Despite priding itself on being perhaps the most efficient food industry in the world, the British food system has a major problem with waste.

The UK is the poor man of Europe when it comes to diverting its surplus food to feed those who are hungry. The attitude seems to be that short-dated surpluses suddenly become invisible as soon as their commercial value drops. Surpluses only regain their visibility when they become a cost, as managers consider how to get rid of them.

“The food industry is lucky the media has not really gone for the jugular”

Based on its 10 years’ experience, FareShare believes up to 400,000 tonnes of fit-for-consumption food goes to waste every year in the UK. Last year, FareShare supplied a million meals every month to UK charities, saving them more than £16m. Yet that is only 1.5% of the surplus food that FareShare believes exists.

To be fair, the situation is improving. Tesco has matched all its distribution centres with FareShare’s regional centres to divert surpluses, as well as delivering daily surpluses from its dotcom stores if they cannot access reduce-to-clear systems. Sainsbury’s, which helped set up FareShare, enables the charity to reach many of its fresh-food suppliers, resulting in a 10-fold increase in the fresh produce FareShare redistributes to its 1,290 member charities.

Asda has also asked all its suppliers to default their surpluses to FareShare unless they can do something else profitable with the produce. As a result of working with FareShare, all three major retailers have also significantly reduced their overall waste levels. Manufacturers and big brands are also seeing the benefits, among them two of FareShare’s long-term partners, Nestlé and Gerber.

But all surpluses should be available for redistribution. As long as the mantra of ‘we have no waste’ is used to block out reality, the problem will persist. In a world where to fail to meet demand is tantamount to commercial suicide, there will always be surpluses. But 13 million people are going hungry in the UK. To allow surpluses to end up as waste is, as Baroness Scott said when launching the report, morally reprehensible. We need a culture shift.

The UK and France have similar sized populations and the same developed food systems and processes. Yet the French redistribute 20 times more food than us. I have yet to meet a person in the UK food industry who is not passionate about their food and does not hate waste. So why the disconnect between feelings and actions? Leadership from Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda is vital, but what is really needed is for everyone in the industry to take action when they come across surplus food. Only then will we really have the best food industry in the world!

Lindsay Boswell is CEO of FareShare