Britain’s biggest supermarkets have been defending their practices after a report suggested that up to half of the world’s food is thrown away.  The Institution of Mechanical Engineers said the waste was being caused by poor storage, strict sell-by dates, bulk offers and consumer fussiness.

The British Retail Consortium said supermarkets have “adopted a range of approaches” to combat waste.

They also lobbied the EU to relax laws stopping the sale of misshaped produce.

According to the report – Global Food; Waste Not, Want Not – from the UK-based institution, as much as half of the world’s food, amounting to two billion tonnes worth, is wasted.

Its study claims that up to 30% of vegetables in the UK were not harvested because of their physical appearance. ‘Waste of resources’
The report said that between 30% and 50% of the four billion tonnes of food produced around the world each year went to waste.
It suggested that half the food bought in Europe and the US was thrown away.

Dr Tim Fox, head of energy and environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said: “The amount of food wasted and lost around the world is staggering. This is food that could be used to feed the world’s growing population – as well as those in hunger today.

“It is also an unnecessary waste of the land, water and energy resources that were used in the production, processing and distribution of this food.

“The reasons for this situation range from poor engineering and agricultural practices, inadequate transport and storage infrastructure through to supermarkets demanding cosmetically perfect foodstuffs and encouraging consumers to overbuy through buy-one-get-one-free offers.”

He told the BBC’s Today programme: “If you’re in the developing world, then the losses are in the early part of the food supply chain, so between the field and the marketplace.

“In the mature, developed economies the waste is really down to poor marketing practices and consumer behaviour.”

Dr Fox called on “governments, development agencies and organisation like the UN” to work to help change people’s mindsets on waste and discourage wasteful practices.

But the BRC questioned the report’s link between promotions and food waste, highlighting a UK government survey that showed buy-one-get-one-free offers were becoming rarer.

“Retailers want to help customers make their money go further,” it said.

“They’ve also adopted a range of approaches to help people make the best use of the food they buy, including giving clear storage advice and recipe ideas, and offering a wider range of portion sizes.”

It added that “using more of the crop to cut food waste and increase sustainable production is an objective for all retailers. This is how we are exceeding government targets for food waste.”

The supermarket giant Morrisons said it was working with farmers and suppliers to eliminate wastage.
A spokesperson said: “We understand how important it is to tackle the issue of food waste and make an effort to do so in every area of our business – from our manufacturing facilities right through to store.

“We don’t currently offer buy-one-get-one-free offers on our fruit and vegetables, have relaxed our specifications on this produce to accept more ‘wonky’ crops and offer clear labelling for customers.”

Toine Timmermans, from Wageningen University and Research Centre in the Netherlands, described the IME publication as a “relevant report that draws attention to an important issue and topic”.

But he added: “Based on years of research I find the conclusion about the amount of food waste (1.2-2 billion tonnes) unrealistically high.”
Tristram Stuart, from food waste campaign group Feeding the 5000, said: “Amazingly, there has been no systematic study of food waste at the farm level either in the UK or elsewhere in Europe or the US.

“In my experience, it’s normal practice for farmers to assume that 20% to 40% of their fruit and vegetable crops won’t get to market, even if they are perfectly fit for human consumption.”

Tom Tanner, from the Sustainable Restaurants Association, said: “It is the power of major retailers – convenience shopping and supermarkets on everyone’s doorstep, you can nip out and buy a ready made meal in two minutes rather than make use of what’s in your fridge.”

Businesses and organisations with cooling towers in the west of Scotland are facing checks to ensure they are managing legionella risks appropriately.

Inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and local authorities are currently visiting cooling towers and evaporative condensers in Glasgow, North Ayrshire, Inverclyde and Renfrewshire.

The checks are expected to inform future visits to similar sites across Britain.

The inspections follow the publication of a safety notice in July warning of the legionella risks posed by cooling towers and evaporative condensers and are part a wider initiative to promote better control of legionella.

It follows an HSE review of outbreaks in 2011 that identified cooling towers and evaporative condensers as being responsible for the majority of the most significant outbreaks in Britain in the past 10 years.

David Snowball, the HSE’s Director for Scotland & Northern England said:

“We are doing these visits to focus businesses’ attention on ensuring they are doing what is required both to protect their workers and the wider public.

“Our research has confirmed that cooling towers pose the biggest legionella risk.  If we, or local authority inspectors, find that the appropriate controls are not in place, we will take enforcement action.  Inspections are a valuable part of our regulatory action.  They are however no substitute for companies meeting their legal duties on a daily basis, given that legionella levels can increase to high levels in a matter of days or weeks.”

Maurice Young Consulting is able to work with companies to audit their current procedures and to provide advice and encourage effective ways of working.  If you would like an independant ‘health check’ of your current legionella systems and procedures why not contact us.

Forklift vehicles play an increasingly important role in the UK’s logistics industry and a good truck driver can really help delivery firms save a lot of time.

The machines are widely used to unload or “tip” lorries when they have reached their destination and sites that are on the ball can get this done quickly and safely, so the HGV driver can get on their way.

In order to improve safety standards further, forklifts will soon have to undergo more rigorous fatigue testing.  Manufacturers will need to ensure the chains used on the forklift masts meet new ISO 4347 regulations.

The updated legislation is expected to be formalised in the next 12 months.

The amount of speculative warehouse and logistics centre building in the UK will increase as a result of a change in legislation next year, it is suggested.

From October 2013, such sites will be provided with exemption from empty property rates and experts have predicted there will be a spurt in new construction as a result.

Speaking to Logistics Manager about the alteration in the law introduced earlier this month by chancellor George Osborne in his 2012 Autumn Statement, David Jones of GVA suggested that more warehouses will be built as the move “will remove a hurdle to developers concerned about the rates obligations they will face on more speculative development”.

Andrew Griffiths of ProLogis added that it is looking into the possibility of speculative development, as there is a shortage of facilities within the south-east.

However, developers and landlords with existing vacant buildings face continuing to be charged 100 per cent rates.

Recent figures indicated performance in the European logistics property sector remains strong, with relatively high levels of take-up recorded over the third quarter of 2012, despite the economic crisis in the eurozone.

Food manufacturers may soon be made to provide clear and accurate information on the country of origin of meat, Defra has announced.

The government has reportedly said it had been demanding stronger labelling rules across the EU for past three years, and was now implementing these rules in the UK.
It said it would be legislating on country-of-origin labelling of meat, the minimum font size on labels, declaration of nanomaterial ingredients and a requirement to state the plant origin of the oil in the product.
However, it added that country-of-origin labelling would be “subject to [European] Commission rules”.
Minister of State for Agriculture and Food, David Heath explained the government was “tightening” rules to make it easier for consumers to make informed decisions. He said: “We fought long and hard in Europe for more honest labelling, so that people can make up their own minds about what they eat.
“We are making it easier for consumers to know what is in the food and drink they buy, while at the same time cutting red tape for businesses.”
Eblex, the levy body for the British beef and lamb industry, said country-of-origin labelling would be a positive move that would help consumers when shopping. Eblex said: “Any legislation introduced to help consumers make better-informed decisions about the food they buy is to be welcomed. Clear country-of-origin labelling is an important part of this.”
Defra said it would provide a reasonable period of time for the industry to implement the changes and added that this would minimise costs. Also, businesses will not have to immediately re-label every product to comply with the law and can absorb costs in planned re-labelling.
Andrea Martinez-Inchausti assistant director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium (BRC), said she was interested to see how Defra would take the legislation forward. She added: “There are still a lot of elements that are to be agreed, such as the detail behind the new provisions on country-of-origin labelling.”