Wood and trees - Tesco the best, Waitrose the worst for food waste, apparently

An interesting little insight into how some think the world should be run. The underlying subject is food waste in the supermarket supply and retail chain. An odd thing to be worrying about really, as the very existence of that supermarket supply and retail chain is what reduces food waste to minimal levels in the first place. Any reading of FAO and the like reports reveals that it is their absence which leads to 50% and about of food rotting between field and fork. Their existence leads to  some being tossed from the shelves, to be sure, also to odd bags of salad rotting at the back of our fridges. But the efficient food collection and distribution systems which are supermarkets is the very thing which reduces food waste.

But, you know, far too many people with too much time on their hands:

Another day, another supermarket-bashing report – even if this latest one is slightly unexpected. This time it’s aiming at the upright, conscientious, middle-class shoppers’ favourite. But now Waitrose has been criticised by the campaign group, Feedback Global, for being the worst performer out of 10 UK supermarket chains at tackling food waste.

According to Feedback Global’s findings, Waitrose provides no public data on food waste. It redistributes a small quantity of food compared with other retailers, has done limited work with suppliers to reduce food waste, and has no programme to send permissible food surplus to serve as animal feed. This is in striking contrast to Tesco – the supermarket all right-thinking people like me are supposed to hate. Tesco was the first group to produce third-party audited food-waste data, and in 2017, according to the report, increased its food surplus distribution network by 40% on the previous year, donating 7,975 tonnes of food to people in need.

The full report is here.

The problem with this is that the report is noting how well the varied supermarkets do the form filling and box ticking. Where's the report on how near out of date food is given away to the homeless, do we have that document detailing stuff sent off for animal feed? What the report doesn't do is provide any information at all on who is throwing how much food away.

For example, imagine for a moment. A supermarket chain has an aggressive discounting policy. Anything getting near to the end of shelf life, close to sell by date, is discounted so much that crowds of the impecunious storm the stores and cart it all away. The chain has no food waste at all in fact. They therefore don't fill in all the forms as there's nothing for them to form fill about. By the standards used in this report that supermarket chain would be bottom of the listing. 

No food waste at all, no concomitant documentation about disposal of food waste, bad marks.

We do not, not in the slightest, claim that Waitrose emits no such waste. We haven't a clue whether it does or not in fact. But a measurement system which cannot even tell how much food waste there is isn't going to be all that useful in measuring food waste now, is it? 

As up at the top the issue of how much emanates from the supermarket chains we think entirely unimportant, as it's their very existence which reduces the original problem of food being wasted. But if we do want to worry about it let's do so by studying reality, shall we, not the paperwork?