New research suggests that better use of fridges and freezers in the home could help reduce the £12bn worth of food and drink that's thrown away each year.
The research, published by Wrap (Waste & Resources Action Programme), suggests that the retail supply chain could implement a number of measures to help consumers keep the food they buy at its best, in the fridge and freezer, to prevent food waste.
Key recommendations include communicating the importance of good temperature control in-store, selling fridge thermometers, increasing the use of the 'snowflake' logo and moving away from 'freeze on the day of purchase' labelling where appropriate.
The research, which looked at ways consumers buy and store chilled and frozen foods, suggests there's still considerable confusion which leads to significant food waste. For example, although most people know what their fridge temperature should be, they don't have the means to check and adjust this. Similarly, although journey times from store to home have increased, only a minority of consumers are using cool bags for transporting chilled and frozen food.
Richard Swannell, director of retail at Wrap, said it would really help consumers if the industry got behind the recommendations as a means of reducing food waste.
"Reducing food waste will save us all money," he said. "£480 per year for a typical household, and that's particularly important in these cash-strapped times. This research shows that there are some really quite quick and simple initiatives the food industry can take to help us do this.
"Consumers want to be confident about how best to store food and what can be frozen, when and for how long. Industry can play a key role in making this happen, saving us all money and tackling the 5.3m tonnes of food thrown away each year that could have been eaten.
"The food industry has already undertaken a number of initiatives to address food waste that occurs because consumers are unsure of the best ways to store food, with M&S, Morrisons, Sainsbury's, Waitrose and Birds Eye leading the way.
"Much more can still be done, which is why I'd encourage all retailers and manufacturers to talk to us about how they can implement these changes that can really make a difference."
Swannell also said that Wrap would continue to work closely with the Food Standards Agency and the white goods industry to ensure the safety of food is protected during the drive to reduce the amount of unnecessary food waste.
Kaarin Goodburn, secretary general of the Chilled Food Association, who has advised Wrap in this area, said: "We're looking forward to working with stakeholders to progress this issue, since chilled foods rely on storage at refrigeration temperatures throughout their entire life.
"The FSA recommends that fridge temperatures are between 0ºC and 5ºC. We believe that fridge temperature dials should clearly indicate which setting is the coldest and we recommend using a well-designed fridge thermometer to check the fridge isn't too warm."
Paul Cook of the FSA said: "Food safety is a priority, but we all have to make sure that we minimise the amount of waste that's generated every year. It's important that government and industry work together on this issue and begin implementing changes that will help consumers to reduce food waste without compromising food safety."
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