UK families are throwing away an average of almost one meal a day in food waste despite the squeeze on incomes.
The Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap) group conducted research that showed this could amount to almost £60 a month for every household and the total cost to the UK is £12.5 billion a year.
Almost half of the food wasted goes straight from the supermarket trolley to the cupboard and then onto the rubbish bin without ever reaching the dining table.
This comes despite inflation running at almost four times the rate of average annual wage increases. According to the latest official figures, the consumer prices index (CPI) is currently 2.7 per cent, whilst annual wage increases not including bonuses are at 0.7 per cent as the biggest squeeze on UK households since the Second World War continues.
The most common items to be thrown away are bread, milk and potatoes but the research showed that around 86 million chickens are thrown away every year.
This equates to 24 million slices of bread, 5.8 million potatoes and 5.7 million glasses of milk being wasted every day in the UK.
WRAP said the people are buying too much, sometimes as a result of tempting ‘2 for 1’ promotions, serving large portions and confusion over food labelling were some of the main causes of the problem.
However, Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium said supermarket promotions were not the problem.
He said: "The organisation that published the figures did do research on the impact of promotions a couple of years ago and actually didn't find a direct link between promotions and food waste.
"The really important points are just simple things that have shown we can make a difference in our own homes – knowing the difference between a best before and a use by date, thinking about how we store the food and also using our freezers a bit more."
WRAP chief executive Dr Liz Goodwin said the government, grocers and food manufacturers need to work together to tackle the problem.
Dr Goodwin said: "Consumers are seriously worried about the cost of food and how it has increased over recent years. Yet, as Wrap's research shows, we are still wasting millions of tonnes and billions of pounds.”
The organisation advised people to just buy what they need, serve smaller portions and understand the difference between “best before” and “use by” dates.
WRAP, which is publicly-funded, said households have cut food waste by 21 per cent over the last five years, saving consumers £13 billion but that this could be reduced by 1.7 million more tonnes a year by 2025.
Dr Goodwin said: "The UK is leading the way in tackling food waste and the 21% cut is a terrific achievement by millions of people who have taken action, saved money and helped safeguard our natural resources.
"However, there is so much more to go for and I believe we should be going for it."
Government resource management minister, Dan Rogerson, said: "Everyone has a role to play in reducing food waste and we want to see businesses helping consumers to waste less food.
"Cutting waste and driving business innovation will help to build a stronger economy. We will continue to work closely with food retailers and manufacturers to achieve this goal."
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