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UK accused over food waste as study slams Britons for throwaway habits

Published 12/08/2015

Britons waste more food than anyone else in Europe, research suggests
Britons waste more food than anyone else in Europe, research suggests
Britons have been accused of wasting more food than anyone else in Europe

Britain wastes more food than any other country in Europe, new research suggests.

For every one of the UK's 64 million citizens, the equivalent of a tin of baked beans is thrown away every day, according to the findings.

Each year, 22 million tonnes of food is wasted in the European Union, say the scientists - and nearly 80% of this loss is avoidable.

Even Romania, the most frugal country studied, wasted the equivalent of an apple per person per day.

Most of the food waste consisted of vegetables, fruit, and cereals, partly due to their short shelf-life, the study found.

But discarded meat represented the biggest loss of nitrogen and water resources.

"Meat production uses much more resources in the first place, so even a little bit of waste can have a big effect in terms of lost resources," said lead scientist Dr Davy Vanham, from the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC).

The study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, looked at data from six European countries - the UK, the Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, Germany and Romania - to estimate levels of food waste in the EU.

Conservative sell-by dates and household affluence both contributed to food waste, said Dr Vanham.

Commenting on possible ways to tackle food waste, he added: "Education in schools would be valuable - and the food production industry is quite cautious. A lot of food is still 'good' but is thrown away when it passes its sell-by date.

"We've noticed .. that there is less food waste as the population tends to have less money."

Next the team plans to investigate food waste in more detail, down to the level of individual European cities.

"Waste in cities tells us a lot - this is where the bulk of our population is living now," said Dr Vanham.

He acknowledged that the research was hampered by the fact that data was only available from six of the 28 EU member states.

Dr Vanham pointed out that data from the other countries was not reliable.

"Certainly it would be useful if governments invested more in measuring waste with greater accuracy," he said.

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