You what?

Supermarkets have been forced to defend their efforts to tackle the UK’s food waste crisis, after being accused by MPs of contributing to the “morally repugnant” mountain of produce thrown away each year by shoppers.

A report published today by the House of Lords EU Committee, Counting the Cost of Food Waste, urged supermarkets to end “Buy One, Get One Free” promotions to help cut the 15 million of tonnes of food wasted in the UK each year, at a cost of £5bn.

For a start there’s no way that politicians should be trying to intervene in the pricing of foodstuffs. But what the hell is the EU committee doing here?

This has an impact on whether Germany invades France how?

65 comments on “You what?

  1. And God forbid we shoulsd expect consumers, or ‘people’ as we call them in our household, to be responsible for their own actions.

  2. A report published today by the House of Lords EU Committee, Counting the Cost of Food Waste, urged supermarkets to end “Buy One, Get One Free” promotions to help cut the 15 million of tonnes of food wasted in the UK each year, at a cost of £5bn.

    Someone correct me, but aren’t those deals always about getting rid of food that is about to go off? When the Use By date looms, they reduce price and when that does not work, they offer two-for-one?

    So how is stopping them doing that going to help?

    This has an impact on whether Germany invades France how?

    Perhaps all those jokes about sauerkraut and potatoes are true – the three German victories over France were really about a German desire for a decent dinner? Good for us they never took to Afternoon Tea.

    (Actually, having spent a bit of time in France and not enough time in Germany, I think German food is vastly better – and always served more pleasantly. Even in the former East Germany. Most of the time.)

  3. Let’s burn all the supermarkets down, together with their nasty logistics networks, and see how well that helps us cut down on food waste.

  4. The hyperbolic increase in electricity prices thanks to the Energiwende will make the raising of pigs in Germany uneconomic. Pig farmers will go to Ukraine in pursuit of cheaper production costs where they will become part of the EU’s soft offensive into the Russian hegemony. The Russians will react by insisting on a “pork for oil” exchange and pork all the pork. Driven to desperate measures by hunger and cold, millions of German economic migrants will invade France demanding bread and sausages on French State benefits, further bankrupting an already bankrupt country.
    Well, you did ask.

  5. In my experience BOGOF offers also tend to be on non-perishable goods, canned food, 2L bottles of coke; or goods that can be frozen, 500g of mince, packs of bacon.

    I’ve never seen a BOGOF lettuce.

  6. So the very organisations that have done by far the most to cut out all that insane wastage from field to table, whose BOGOF offers are an example of efficiency savings, are being condemned for those very efficiencies.

    Could you all indulge my God bothering and allow me to give you another little tale of the Catholic Justice & Peace movement? (Just insert Cafod or Oxfam or War on Want if you wish)

    SSE;- Shopping at Supermarkets Kills. Tesco is the route of all evil. BOGOF is a symptom of this evil. Low prices encourage consumers to buy food they don’t need thus causing waste and actually causing the consumer to spend MORE. Competition is a false benefit to the consumer because they end up buyingh things they don’t NEED.

    Yet when the talk movedson to Aldi and Lidl undercutting Tesco, well everybody’s opinion changes. Then competition is a great thing and Tesco is getting what it deserves.

    why? Because Tesco is the baddy, wearing the the black hat and everything. The lefty analysis is based on choosing your enemy, Tesco, Barclays, Starbucks or simply the ‘neoliberal consiracy’ and then blaming it for everything. (P.S. Ritchie has now added the CQC to the neoliberal conspiracy).

    So when Tesco does something, it’s bad, evil. It must be evil, because Tesco did it.

  7. Have the EU eradicated the wasteful wine lakes and butter mountains that are a direct result of the CAP? If not their lordships may be better employed spouting off about that and leaving the nation be.

  8. The Thought Gang – “Let’s burn all the supermarkets down, together with their nasty logistics networks, and see how well that helps us cut down on food waste.”

    How is that working for Venezuela I wonder idly.

    Or the Supermarkets could try another solution – fence off part of their car parks and keep some pigs. Encourage their customers to keep a pig bucket of vegetable scraps. Fed them all the off milk and bread past its used by date.

    Of course it would amount to nothing, but the PR would be great.

  9. Sorry to be boringly pedantic, here, but have UK supermarkets started doing BOGOFs on short life perishables now?
    I can remember 1 for 2 on Tesco cheese & maybe there was something on yogurt & similar lines, but these are all medium life where the use by will be out past the weekly shopping cycle. It just gets missed off the shopping list next time round.
    Mostly BOGOFs are long life packaged products. One might end up using more coffee or biscuits but one’s hardly binning them.
    If a store was offering get one free on short life perishables, where the supply/demand logistics are usually pretty closely coordinated to cut down on loss, it implies there’s a glut back up the supply chain & the store’s judging the customer’s better placed to decide on trashing surplus than it is.

  10. SMFS: but aren’t those deals always about getting rid of food that is about to go off? When the Use By date looms, they reduce price

    No, they’re planned that way well in advance. When the shelf-life is expiring, the product is reduced with a very visible new label and bar-code.

    magnusw: BOGOF offers also tend to be on non-perishable goods

    Not entirely. Sometimes on perishables like soft fruit or stone fruit.

    The cost of these promotions is born by the supplier and the effective shift in the price point produces a very predictable shift in demand whose impact on the supply chain is calculated with precision.

    Cunning bastards.

  11. When there is an offer on food i like I buy it. Then excess food is prepared and frozen if not being used quickly enough.
    Times I throw food out is when cannot face eating it, or when ill, or when not suitable to use.
    What really annoys these campaigners is that people can pay less for the same amount of food!

  12. “None of the BOGOF wine and beer we buy ever
    goes to waste.”

    The fucking puritans in the Scottish Parliament have outlawed alcohol BOGOFs north of the border.

  13. We buy extra of the perishable foods we use a lot of so that we don’t run out, inevitably some gets slung. Perhaps Greenpeace could work with Monsanto to develop GM fresh food that doesn’t go off so quickly.

  14. Political class lobbies en masse for making poor people pay more for food.

    If food being cheaper causes more waste, then surely it is time to end the public subsidy of the cost of food in Parliament.

  15. (Actually, having spent a bit of time in France and not enough time in Germany, I think German food is vastly better – and always served more pleasantly. Even in the former East Germany. Most of the time.)

    +1

  16. The simple answer is to buy BOGOFs only when the second item can be used, stored or frozen. Unlike another commentator I have seen a BOGOF for lettuce. Being too mean to leave the second lettuce on the shelf I took the two of them and gave the second to a neighbour.

  17. Ironman – well, y’see, while you were playing your tambourine and kumbayahing with the justice n peacers, I was learning about how the supermarkets collude with the big food manufacturers to trick people into wanting things via advertising and branding. If we banned all advertising people would live more cheaply and sustainably.

    And you know the cheaper own-brand stuff like Tesco Value Range? Another conspiracy against the poor. The supermarkets and manufacturers deliberately make the cheapo stuff look unappealing through crude packaging so that poor people are tricked/shamed into buying the more expensive baked beans.

    I know these things because a university lecturer told me so.

  18. @”So Much for Subtlety
    April 7, 2014 at 9:39 am

    The Thought Gang – “Let’s burn all the supermarkets down, together with their nasty logistics networks, and see how well that helps us cut down on food waste.”

    How is that working for Venezuela I wonder idly.”
    They don’t have any more food waste but there have been some side effects.

  19. @Glen Dorran

    ‘The fucking puritans in the Scottish Parliament have outlawed alcohol BOGOFs north of the border.’

    Sorry, can’t stop – I’m just off to open up a chain of offies this side of Hadrian’s Wall.

  20. Has anyone had a look in the bins at the Houses of Parliament?

    I am absolutely willing to bet my house that the wankers throw away more food than most of us, on average, what with it being subsidised by the rest of us.

    (The subsidy may be one reason why they don’t give a toss about food prices in supermarkets. Expense claims may be another.)

  21. I’m not entirely sure how we’d enforce a ban on advertising though. What penalties would there be for unscrupulous merchants who hired folks from the newly unemployed horde of marketing executives to hang around bus stops and train stations, sidle up to the poor, and say “Pssst! I’m a secret lemonade drinker!”

  22. Who wastes all this food? The telly news had headlines of £60 a month. In a household of 4 I’m not seeing anything like £15 a week going in the bin. Are they putting a value on banana skins and potato peelings?

  23. Interested – eating potato peels and expiring Greggs steak bakes is for the plebs.

    Our nomenklatura deserve their caviar and Zil lanes.

  24. Yes but think of all the jobs…………..

    Growing the food
    Harvesting the food
    Transporting the food
    Packaging the food
    Selling the food
    Delivering the food
    Disposing of the food

    Surely the Keynesians can see the “benefit to society”?

  25. Ironman – nah it wasn’t Ivan. I’m pretty sure he is right though. Not only is he a university lecturer (in one of the theoretically credible institutions, it wasn’t formerly known as Belming Polytechnic or anything), but he has a ponytail.

    If you can’t trust a grown man with a ponytail, who can you trust?

  26. Well bang goes all that crap about how Food Banks prove food is too expensive then, if they are now complaining about it being too cheap. The truth is these people won’t be happy until everyone has ration cards and has to queue up to collect their weekly allowance. Thats apart from Guardian readers, who being of vital importance to the economic effort will have special stores just for them.

  27. Jim – have you seen that Guardian advert where the guy sets his shed on fire?

    Some Guardianistas just want to watch the world burn.

  28. Ironman – have just fallen off my chair reading your rare interaction with Murphy on the question from Polly ‘why isn’t Murphy on that board?’ – ‘you may be just another provincial number cruncher …..I never was’ – I might have need of a hospital visit as have just choked on my breakfast reading that. I wish he had the basic level of competence of a ‘mere provincial number cruncher’ – unfortunately couldn’t come to your aid as any comment would have fallen foul of all five sections of his comments policy.

    On the topic at hand – agree with Tim as ever that the issue is what the devil any of this has to do with Brussels. How is this in anyway related to the administration of the Free Trade area which those of the UK population who are over 56 voted to stay in?

  29. Has anyone had a look in the bins at the Houses of Parliament?

    I am absolutely willing to bet my house that the wankers throw away more food than most of us…

    With Dianne Abbot and John Prescott in the place, I’ll take that bet!!

  30. wrong argument. No evidence that retailers underhand methods to sell stuff (of which bogoff is apparently history) has any impact on food waste. Might be fun to poke fun at the EU, but this was house of lords meddling, with no reference to any evidence whatsoever.

  31. With all these perennial supermarket accusations, it’s worth trying to look at the supermarket side & try & work out where they’re supposed to be benefiting.
    Sort life perishables are a supermarket’s highest cost to return line. You can see that, because it’s the discount supermarkets try to keep that side to a minimum. If they do it at all. Transport & handling are costly & there is that short shelf life, so higher potential waste.
    Do supermarkets actually make much of a profit on perishables activities? Or is more of a case, if they don’t sell them, customers will go elsewhere & stay elsewhere.
    So where exactly is the benefit to a supermarket in doubling its transport/handling costs to do perishables BOGOFs? If it was promotional, they’d do better on non-perishables with proportionally lower overheads & even a bit more economy of scale kicking in.
    On the other hand, if they’re doing it to shift excess at the supply end, what’s the problem? If the lettuce has been unusually prolific & they’re saddled with a glut, it’s better given to the customer than chucked away, isn’t it?

  32. Van

    The bits he cut out gave me most satisfaction. I noted that his track record of advising private clients how to set up a personal services company for there nanny, “whilst worthy enough” (I liked that) didn’t qualify for the job. I also followed up his endless self-description of his world-beating experience on SMEs by asking him what then qualified him to write about transfer pricing and other issues affecting multinationals…at which point I think he pissed a gallstone and we haven’t heard from him since.

  33. Just read that bit between Ironman and RM: nearly spat my lunch out!

    Incidentally, does anyone else think that anyone who has the verbal tic of repeatedly saying ‘candidly’ in their writing most likely isn’t being candid at all? Rather like the old Ralph Waldo Emerson quote “The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons”.

  34. Tee hee. I love his sign off:

    ‘I will be candid: I would need a lot of persuading to do it’

    Yeah, right.

    Murphy – we know you read this blog. The most favourable analysis I can come up with as regards you is that you are mentally ill. There’s enough in you for an entire conference.

    (Jim, spot on.)

  35. has anyone done any analysis of how much perfectly edible food is thrown away because of the “best before” dates which are stamped on all products? Whjy does stuff like salami and cheese come with an “eat by” date on it? Our ancestors discovered all these ways of preserving milk and meat etc and yet here we are deliberately forgetting this culture.

  36. I just checked a jar of pickled onions…”eat before Sept 2015″. What would happen to me if I ate them in October 2015?

  37. Your Sir John Cowperthwaite clearly understood government. Paraphrased: “If you gather statistics some damn fool will want to do something about them.”

    If only the US could put a Cowperthwaite heir running our country rather than what we’ve had these past decades.

  38. How about they start by abolishing the stupid “sell-by” dates that are usually complete nonsense anyway?

    Have you ever had supermarket cheese that was anywhere near ripe unless at least a fortnight “over its date”?

    And sell-by dates on bags of rice and other dry goods – what’s that all about then?

    But young people are so brainwashed (probably by ignorant Primary School teachers) that they religiously throw away everything that’s gone past its “best before” date, and of course no shop small or large can sell such produce either, it HAS to be disposed of, even though 90% of it will be perfectly good and the other 10% will be “off” in ways that anyone would notice right away. THIS is where the colossal waste comes from.

    Oh, and whoever suggested the pig thing – nice idea but you’re about 20 years too late: it’s now illegal to feed food waste to pigs – due, I have no doubt at all, to yet another EU regulation.

  39. Diogenes

    “I just checked a jar of pickled onions…”eat before Sept 2015″. What would happen to me if I ate them in October 2015?”

    You’d apply for a full time job with Oxfam…or feel qualified to sit on the Board of HMRC.

  40. BiS: If the lettuce has been unusually prolific & they’re saddled with a glut, it’s better given to the customer than chucked away, isn’t it?

    I think you are mistaken if you believe that retail multiples buy a crop rather than a given quantity of a given line.

    There are all kinds of reasons why a store or a supplier agree on a promotion (and sometimes the supplier’s arm is half way up his back) but foremost among them is that the customers like them.

  41. Ironman – don’t suggest it to the WGCE or he might start stockpiling pickled onions!

  42. Firstly. the biggest waste comes from the supermarkets rejecting food with any visual blemishes, whether or not they affect its quality as food. Secondly the largest %age waste come from restaurants that have to ensure that they have whatever a customer who walks in just before closing might want (and the staff cannot eat all the leftovers in lieu of wages).
    Tesco do multisavers on tomatoes – I never buy them because I really do not want to eat that many tomatoes before they go off. Other multisavers of stuff I should eat I generally buy (but not the big packs of Strongbow because I cannot (and/or really do not want to) walk home with one hand bearing 3 stone of shopping and nothing in the other hand.

  43. Tesco do multisavers on tomatoes – I never buy them because I really do not want to eat that many tomatoes before they go off.

    Make a large portion of pasta sauce or tomato soup and freeze. The great wise one does that in summer when she has a glut and sadly she also does it with effing courgettes.

  44. Look at the Tesco website now. In their special offers page there is a BOGOF section – it’s pretty easy to find. Today, the only items which would be remotely perishable within a short period are some yogurts and a chocolate milkshake thing. The rest is all frozen stuff, tins, cereals, coffee etc.

    Go into the multi-buy page and there are various offers on fruit and veg which are probably equivalent to a BOGOF, but that isn’t what the prodnoses are getting worked up about, is it?

  45. Doesn’t “Buy one get one free” really mean “We’re gonna charge you double the actual price if you only buy one”?

  46. The proposed conclusion is that supermarkets encourage waste by BOGOF offers on short life goods.

    Assume that the supermarket is not gaining by the BOGOF, it makes no real difference to profit if someone gets a free product or the supermarket throws it away when it’s shelf life expires.

    Ignoring customers who would buy two items in lieu of a BOGOF anyway, and would therefore probably use both of them, we need to see what happens to the excess produce for those who only need one but get two?

    (a) if the excess is part of the BOGOF it is purchased and has a chance of being consumed.

    (b) if the excess if not part of the BOGOF it wont be sold and will almost certainly be thrown away (by the supermarket).

    So the conclusion should be that supermarkets would actually prevent net waste with BOGOF offers.

    No?

  47. Apologies for grocer’s apostrophe, it was part of a BOGOF and I threw it in there as we were talking about lettuce.

  48. Why do they never use Waitrose as an example? Telling, really.

    99% of this stuff is motivated by plain old fashioned middle-class snobbery dressed up in the shiny black uniform of anti-capitalist bollocks.

  49. john77
    “Firstly. the biggest waste comes from the supermarkets rejecting food with any visual blemishes,”

    Generally, that doesn’t happen. The quality sort is done at the packing plant & subs head down the food processing route.

  50. John’s comment has provoked an idea.
    Can anyone come up with something a supermarket could do, wouldn’t provoke criticism from. the anti-supermarket crowd.
    Giving stuff away free does.
    Closing up shop would be a job loss issue.
    Giving away free money? But apparently loyalty card points are bad. So not that.
    Any entries?

  51. ‘bloke in spain’ – convert the supermarkets into housing projects – just as churches and pubs have been. Start a popular tv program on this and there you are.
    A better solution would , overall, be the 1940 one.

  52. Can anyone come up with something a supermarket could do, wouldn’t provoke criticism from.

    It’s not just supermarkets, it’s pretty much everything. If a company announced its intention to build a new refinery in the UK, the locals would go apeshit. If the same company announced its intention to close an existing one down, the locals would go apeshit. People, as a whole, are deeply conservative and don’t like change once past a certain age.

  53. @ Tim Newman

    ‘If a company announced its intention to build a new refinery in the UK, the locals would go apeshit. If the same company announced its intention to close an existing one down, the locals would go apeshit.’

    A perfect summation of the mentalist mindset. A real world example would be closing the pits and throwing all those miners out of work vs the evils of fossil fuels.

    What the left would really like is for a million men to be employed digging stones out of pits by hand.

  54. “What the left would really like is for a million men to be employed digging stones out of pits by hand.”

    Correct. In the late 1960s I went on a school trip to Newdigate colliery/mine. God knows how deep it was, but it was a couple of miles to walk (some of it bent double) to get to the face. Thats where you got to clock on, not at the pithead. Two shifts machining coal and the 3rd moving the props.

    I grew up on a farm, and was at the time working Saturdays in a slaughterhouse, so I knew what shitwork was. No power on earth would have persuaded me to work in a coal mine. Thatcher did the right thing shafting Scargill. Sorry for the miners who lost their jobs, but underground coal mining is inhumane. Its a job to be done by one man sitting in a cab with his sarnies and flask, driving a bucket wheel excavator.

  55. Underground coal mining is a little different today, BiJ, every shift cuts coal mechanically and the hydraulic props move themselves. it is still dirty but here in Australia it is a very safe job, I’m more at risk driving to the mine than going underground. I started in the industry in the UK in 1977 and have worked in it all my life and it has provided me with a good living. In some parts of the world it is far less safe but it doesn’t have to be if safety is given priority.

  56. Thanks Docbud. I stand corrected. Newdigate was using hydraulic pit props, it was a big innovation at the time.

    Where are you? Collie?

  57. Newdigate probably looked like this.

    Modern longwalls look like this, though a lot dirtier when they actually start cutting coal.

    The guys on the face can earn up to about $200k with bonuses in Australia, some of them on 7 on 7 off rosters.

  58. Thanks DocBud. I’m remembering back to about 1968, and there’s been a lot of CabSav pass under the bridge since then.

    Newdigate certainly looked a lot closer to the first than the second photo. IIRC, the face was much narrower, with the pit roof sloping down/closing dramatically behind the pit props. There weren’t a series of them, just a single row, like wedges. And it was black. And it was wet. Pools of water everywhere.

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