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Tesco has admitted thousands of tonnes of surplus food declared used for animal feed has in fact been used for much more environmentally damaging anaerobic digestion.

The supermarket giant, which has led industry calls for transparency on food waste reporting, said the discovery came as a result of an audit carried out towards the end of last year. It told The Grocer it had “terminated” the contract of its food waste processor.

The supermarket has as a result been forced to correct its food waste reduction figure across its group operations, from a claimed fall of 45% from 2016/17 to 2022/3, to just 18%.

Tesco officially reported more than 35,000 tonnes of food waste in the UK last year.

The discovery is a major shock.

It has led supermarkets in its record on food waste, having hit the milestone of sending zero food waste to landfill in 2009.

It’s not just that the UK’s biggest retailer has been forced to massively recalculate its reported reduction in food waste, from 45% to just 18%.

It’s that of all companies, it’s Tesco – the one that led calls for transparency on food waste and was the first to begin reporting its figures.

Read more: Tesco fires contractor as food waste scandal sparks investigation

But as the shockwaves settle, this shouldn’t turn into a Tesco witch-hunt.

It deserves credit for coming clean about the discovery and taking prompt action. The big question is, if this could happen to Tesco, what does it say for practices elsewhere in the industry?

More than anything, it removes any doubt that the government must reverse its decision not to bring in mandatory reporting, and finally act on the perverse incentives encouraging anaerobic digestion. That way, while this week’s news is embarrassing for Tesco, the episode may yet have positive consequences.