A new book defining food waste as criminal sends a positive message for shopping locally

It was India Knight, in her column in The Sunday Times, who said she saves money by buying groceries locally when she wants them, so avoiding throwing food away.

We discard food to the tune of £600 for an average family every year, with most of it edible and untouched. To me this is a scandal on a global scale famished populations could be fed three times over by the food that developed nations buy and bin.

Now Tristram Stuart, with his revelatory book Waste, will take the campaign against food waste to new heights. It does not let supermarkets or small shops off the hook. They are all guilty of back-of-store waste which reveals poor sales monitoring, ordering and stock control costing millions of pounds in profits local shops being the worst offenders proportionately.

But what is key is the consumer attitude to buying food in supermarkets and retailers' encouragement to buy too much. Family shoppers show a symptom known to food psychologists as 'Good Mother Syndrome', which subconciously makes them ensure there is enough food and choice to satisfy the family. A family must have a well-stocked larder even though they know they will throw at least 14% of food away.

Stuart's proposals range from educating consumers, to legal sanctions against retailers which hide their true waste figures. He asks shoppers not to be seduced by marketing devices "which make you buy more than you can consume", but somehow avoids mention of buying locally.

As a worldly commentator he is forgiven. There is enough evidence in his book for local shops to realise they have a genuine part to play in meeting families' immediate needs and so helping to address the disgrace of discarded food.

Alan Toft

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