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Tesco admits to wasting huge amount of food

Monday, 21 Oct 2013 | 5:24 AM ET
Simon Dawson | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Tesco – the U.K.'s largest retailer by sales – has admitted that it generated 28,500 tons of food waste in the first six months of this year, drawing attention to the huge amount of food thrown away by British supermarkets.

Some two-thirds of Tesco's bagged salads and just over half of its baked goods were wasted, according to the research, which was published on Monday by the supermarket and not-for-profit company Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP).

Tesco tracked 25 of its bestselling products from farms to consumers' homes as part of the study, which also revealed that 40 percent of apples were wasted, and a fifth of all bananas were thrown away.

(Read more: Wal-Mart's UK storesparks coupon stampede)

But the 28,500 tons of food waste generated at Tesco's stores and distribution centers is part of a much larger problem, according to WRAP, which estimates that 15 million tons of food and drink is wasted each year across the U.K.

On their own, families generate some 7.2 million tons of this waste each year, WRAP said, and about 4.4 tons of that is avoidable. Tesco estimates that amounts to some £700 per family per year being thrown out with the garbage.

"Food waste is a global issue and collaborative action is essential if we are to successfully reduce food waste and reap the financial and environmental benefits of doing so," Richard Swannell, director of WRAP, said.

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Cutting down on the amount of food that is thrown away would not have financial benefits for Britain's households, many of which are struggling with sluggish wage growth combined with rising food prices.

A reduction in food waste would also save local authorities millions of pounds in waste disposal costs, according to WRAP, and deliver significant environmental benefits such as fewer large landfill sites and a reduced burden on natural resources such as water, which is used to produce food.

In an effort to deal with issue, Tesco pledged to remove the "display until" dates on fruit and vegetables and work with producers to identify longer-lasting fresh produce.

(Read more: Sainsbury outshines Tesco with second quarter sales rise)

It also said it would review its promotions, and would end multi-buy offers of large bags of salad.

"Families are wasting an estimated £700 a year and we want to help them keep that money in their pockets, rather than throwing it in the bin," said Tesco's commercial director of food, Matt Simister.

"We're playing our part too and making changes to our processes and in store…We're working with our suppliers to try to cut waste at all stages of the journey from farm to fork."

By CNBC's Katrina Bishop. Followher on Twitter @KatrinaBishop and Google

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