'Best before' labels could be removed to help cut £10bn food waste in the UK

Teaching children in schools about food waste, phasing out "best before" labels and forcing supermarkets to sell "wonky vegetables" are some of the proposals from MPs trying to tackle the UK's food waste problem.

A damning report revealed that over £10bn worth of food is thrown away by UK households every year.

The environment, food and rural affairs select committee said the government should set an "ambitious" national reduction target to cut the food waste that costs the average person £200 a year.

Credit: PA

According to the report from the parliamentary committee raising awareness of food waste from a young age should be a priority and the government should examine how lessons on food and avoiding waste can be incorporated into the curriculum, they said.

MPs also said it is also essential that the waste reduction body Wrap, which has seen its public funding cut despite its achievements in reducing food waste through voluntary agreements, has sufficient money from the government to maintain its efforts.

The incoming government should continue with a review on food date labelling, looking particularly at whether there is a need for "best before" dates which can mislead and confuse people, they said.

The report also suggests food businesses and retailers over a certain size should be forced to separate food waste for collection.

Supermarkets should be required by the government to publish data on the amount of food they bin, was another proposal by MPs.

Tesco was commended in the report for already publishing the data and Sainsbury's for moving in the same direction.

Retailers should also increase the amount of surplus food they give away to charities instead of putting in the bin, and improve their packaging such as increasing resealable packets, to help consumers reduce waste, the report said.

MPs are proposing that sell-by dates on food labels are removed in a bid to reduce the £10bn of food waste. Credit: PA

The committee chairman Neil Parish said: "Economically, food waste costs households hundreds of pounds a year and causes increased disposal costs to local authorities, pushing up council tax bills.

"Socially, it is a scandal that people are going hungry and using food banks when so much produce is being wasted.

"And environmentally it is a disaster, because energy and resources are wasted in production only for the food to end up rotting in landfills where it produces methane - a potent climate-changing gas."

He called for the government to drive progress on reducing food waste in England with a national target in the same way that Scotland, the US and European countries do.

"And supermarkets need to do much more. It's ridiculous that perfectly good vegetables are wasted simply because they're a funny shape.

"Farmers supplying fruits and vegetables to UK supermarkets currently get their produce rejected on the grounds that it fails to meet cosmetic quality standards set by the big retailers.

"Knobbly carrots and parsnips don't cook or taste any different. It's high time we saved them from the supermarket reject bins," he said.