Rip-off that makes us waste food: Small packets of meat, bread, cheese and veg cost up to 80% more per kilo, probe finds. No wonder we bulk buy far too much – and bin 200,000 tons a year
- Shoppers are routinely being incentivised financially to buy larger packs of food
- In nearly every supermarket, large pack better value for money than small ones
- Some supermarkets charge more for fruit and vegetables not wrapped in plastic
Households are wasting enough food every year to fill up 10,000 bin lorries because supermarkets make it seem cheaper to buy more than you need.
A Mail on Sunday investigation has revealed how shoppers are routinely being incentivised financially to buy larger packs of food.
Our survey of cheese, bread, chicken and bacon products in five of Britain’s biggest supermarkets – Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons and Waitrose – found that in nearly every case, large packets were better value for money than small ones.
Waste campaigners say this encourages shoppers to buy more than they may need and penalises those who choose to buy smaller packs.
And our investigation also found that many supermarkets charge shoppers more per kilo for loose fruit and vegetables compared to ones wrapped in environmentally damaging plastic.
In Sainsbury’s a 300g packet of smoked bacon back rashers costs £2.05 – the same as £6.83 per kilo. Yet a smaller 200g packet costs £1.80, or £9 per kilo, making it 32 per cent more expensive per kilo than the larger one
In Tesco, a 400g block of cheese costs £2 – the equivalent of £5 per kilo. A small 220g block costs £1.55. That’s the same as £7.05 per kilo, or 41 per cent more per kilo than the larger packet
In the worst case, researchers found that a 400g half-loaf of Morrisons white bread costs 50p while a full sized 800g loaf costs 55p – just 5p more for twice as much.
The value for money on the full-sized loaf works out at 6.9p per 100g. By comparison, the smaller loaf works out at 12.5p per 100g.
End ban on pig swill to save 2.5m tons of food waste from landfill, Ministers urged
Campaigners have urged the Government to lift the ban on feeding animal remains to livestock after the European Union relaxed its own rules, writes Jonathan Bucks.
Pig swill, which is surplus food including meat scraps that would otherwise go to waste, was banned in 2001 after a disease outbreak was widely blamed on infected swill.
But campaigners argue that a change in the law could allow up to 2.5 million tons of food that is wasted in Britain’s manufacturing, retail and catering industries to be safely fed to pigs.
The EU announced plans in June to lift its own ban on farm feed made from animal remains, which has been in place since 2001 following Britain’s outbreak of BSE, or mad cow disease.
Chef Thomasina Miers, co-founder of the restaurant chain Wahaca, said: ‘It should not be beyond our grasp to work out how to recycle food waste and feed it to pigs and chickens again in a safe, secure manner, knowing how much food waste contributes to global warming.’
Carina Millstone, executive director at the food charity Feedback, added: ‘It’s common sense that when food can’t be eaten by people, it should be used to feed animals.’
A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: ‘The UK is committed to maintaining the highest animal welfare and biosecurity standards.
‘Following our departure from the EU, there is no legal obligation for us to implement these changes.’
That means smaller families, pensioners, those who live on their own – or simply those who eat just a small amount of bread each week – are charged 81 per cent more per slice if they buy only what they need.
An alarming poll for The Mail on Sunday found that more than one in four of us buys bigger packs ‘most of the time or every time’, even though we expect to have surplus that may end up in the bin.
According to the food charity the Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap), households buying the right pack size for their needs could prevent more than 200,000 tons of wasted packaged perishable food – enough to fill Wimbledon’s main tennis court 16 times over.
The Mail on Sunday’s War On Food Waste campaign is urging supermarkets to stop penalising shoppers who want to buy only as much as they need.
British households bin more than 4.5 million tons of perfectly good food every year, and action by the big stores would help the nation hit a key food-waste reduction target of 30 per cent per family by 2030.
Cutting that much food waste from our homes would have the same impact on greenhouse gas emissions as taking two million cars off the road, Wrap says.
Our survey of 1,608 people by Deltapoll found that 62 per cent of the public would buy smaller packs if the value for money was the same as larger ones.
Friends of the Earth campaigner Kierra Box told the MoS: ‘Growing food and producing packaging relies on natural resources – some of which are in scant supply – and both contribute enormously to climate-wrecking emissions.
‘This means that incentivising people to buy more food than they need, and to choose pointlessly packaged fruit and veg over loose because it’s cheaper, is an unnecessary and additional planetary cost that just doesn’t make sense.’
According to Wrap, single-person households waste 40 per cent more per capita than other household types, in part because they do not buy appropriate pack sizes. Almost a third of UK homes – 7.9 million – are single-occupancy, and that number is expected to grow.
One poll found only a fifth of those aged 25 to 34 – those most likely to live alone – said they ate most of the fruit and veg they bought.
The study of 2,000 people by fridge manufacturer Beko found that nearly 70 per cent of those aged 65 and over said they ate most of their fruit and veg.
The MoS investigation into the cost of different food pack sizes surveyed a range of products – from bread and meat to potatoes, apples, pears, oranges and tomatoes – and found customers were regularly penalised for making environmentally friendly choices.
In the worst case, researchers found that a 400g half-loaf of Morrisons white bread costs 50p while a full sized 800g loaf costs 55p – just 5p more for twice as much. The value for money on the full-sized loaf works out at 6.9p per 100g. By comparison, the smaller loaf works out at 12.5p per 100g
Packs of six Waitrose essential tomatoes cost 12.5p per tomato. Yet essential tomatoes bought loosely cost 16p each
Morrisons red peppers cost 38.3p each in packs of three but 45p each loose – or 17 per cent more expensive
In Sainsbury’s, a large 800g loaf of bread costs £1.35 – the equivalent of 16.9p per 100g. A half loaf of the same bread costs £1 – or 25p per 100g – that’s 48 per cent more expensive per slice.
The 60C bins that turn leftovers into garden compost in 30 days
Residents in West Sussex have been given insulated composters that can break down food 32 times faster than normal compost bins.
To prevent food waste going to environmentally damaging landfill sites, 30 residents in Adur and Worthing have received Hotbin aerobic composters that are said to convert kitchen leftovers and garden cuttings into nutrient-rich compost in as little as 30 days.
Hotbins are made from expanded polypropylene – which is often used for car bumpers.
The bins lock in heat and reach 40C to 60C to accelerate the breakdown of difficult food waste, such as bones, and kill off pathogens.
If the pilot is successful, households will be encouraged to buy a £200 Hotbin from Adur and Worthing councils, which aim to become carbon-neutral by 2045. Adur councillor Emma Evans said: ‘It’s fantastic that so many households have taken up the chance to reduce the food they waste, as well as their carbon footprint.
‘Bacteria digests waste 32 times faster at 60C than at 10C, so if compost takes 18 months in a cold heap it will take 18 days in a Hotbin. That’s why using one is a brilliant and easy way to do your bit for the environment.’
A 400g pack of cheddar cheese costs £2 – the equivalent of £5 per kilo. Meanwhile, a 220g pack of the same cheddar costs just 50p less, despite being nearly half the size. As a result, the smaller pack is 36 per cent more expensive per kilo than the large one.
And a 300g packet of smoked bacon back rashers costs £2.05 – the same as £6.83 per kilo.
Yet a smaller 200g packet costs £1.80, or £9 per kilo, making it 32 per cent more expensive per kilo than the larger one.
It was a similar story in Tesco, where a 400g block of cheese also costs £2 – the equivalent of £5 per kilo.
A small 220g block costs £1.55. That’s the same as £7.05 per kilo, or 41 per cent more per kilo than the larger packet.
Unlike Sainsbury’s, Tesco charges the same per kilogram for bacon. Tesco declined to comment.
In Waitrose, a 600g pack of chicken breast fillets costs £4.50 – the equivalent of £7.50 per kilo.
A 400g pack costs £3.50, or £8.75 per kilo, making it 17 per cent more expensive per kilo.
Waitrose also charges more for some loose items than the same products in packets.
Packs of six Waitrose essential tomatoes cost 12.5p per tomato. Yet essential tomatoes bought loosely cost 16p each.
A Waitrose spokesman said loose fruit and veg items vary in price compared with those in packets because they are not always the same size.
The spokesman added: ‘We’re constantly reviewing our product sizes and prices to reflect consumer demand.
‘This is why we launched our ‘Unpacked’ trial to give shoppers the choice to purchase single items rather than multipacks.’
Morrisons red peppers cost 38.3p each in packs of three but 45p each loose – or 17 per cent more expensive.
In Asda, an 800g loaf of medium wholemeal bread costs 58p – equal to 7.2p per 100g. However, a 400g loaf of the same bread costs 50p, or 12.5p per 100g.
An 800g loaf of wholemeal bread costs 58p, which works out at 7.2p per 100g.
Meanwhile, a 400g loaf costs 50p – the same as 12.5p per 100g. That is 74 per cent more expensive per slice.
An Asda spokesman said: ‘We offer products in a range of pack sizes to cater for the different needs of our customers and to help their budgets go further.’
In Sainsbury’s, a large 800g loaf of bread costs £1.35 – the equivalent of 16.9p per 100g. A half loaf of the same bread costs £1 – or 25p per 100g – that’s 48 per cent more expensive per slice
The MoS investigation into the cost of different food pack sizes surveyed a range of products – from bread and meat to potatoes, apples, pears, oranges and tomatoes – and found customers were regularly penalised for making environmentally friendly choices
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