Food waste rotting bananas

The government is to consider forcing supermarkets and suppliers to follow Tesco’s lead, by making them reveal their individual contributions to food waste.

Speaking in a Westminster debate, Defra minister Rory Stewart admitted there was a “good argument” for forcing retailers and manufacturers to reveal their figures, so they could be “named and shamed.”

MPs praised Tesco, the first retailer to reveal its individual contribution to food waste from its stores and DCs, but said the Courtauld agreement should be re-written so that other companies were forced to follow suit.

“At the moment, a composite result is announced, so we do not know who the good guys and the bad guys are,” said Kerry McCarthy, Labour MP for Bristol East.

“If companies were named and shamed, that would encourage the worst performers to follow the example set by the best performers.”

McCarthy also slammed what she called the “miniscule” target for reducing manufacturing and retail waste by 3% from 2013-2015 under phase 3 of the Courtauld agreement, even though an update by Wrap earlier in the year showed that the industry was in danger of missing the target.

“The first year’s results show little change against that minuscule target, although signatories have reported a doubling in the food provided for redistribution,” said McCarthy. “Those targets simply are not ambitious enough to drive the reduction that is needed. It should also be possible under Courtauld to see how well individual supermarkets and manufacturers are performing against the targets.”

Stewart said he would look again at whether the industry targets on food waste went far enough, but backed McCarthy’s call for individual reporting.

“Her argument, which was about transparency and specificity—how on earth are we supposed to hold people to account if we cannot work out how much individual people are doing?—seems to me to be a good one,” he said.

Stewart said it was important that targets on food waste were “feasible and affordable,” admitting “there will always be a tendency on the part of any Government, whether the previous Labour Government or ours, to set targets that are achievable. Equally, we need to be pushed to work harder; we need ambitious targets to make us get out of bed in the morning and shove towards them. I am happy to sit down and examine those targets in detail and talk through the constraints.”

Stewart also stressed that half of all food waste, amounting to 7 million tonnes of food a year, was produced by households rather than retailers or suppliers.