British Journal of Nutrition

Papers on direct relevance to Clinical and Human Nutrition

Household food wastage in Britain

R. W. Wenlocka1, D. H. Bussa1, B. J. Derrya1 and E. J. Dixona2

a1 Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, London SW1

a2 Laboratory of the Government Chemist, London SE1


1. The total food and drink available for human consumption in the United Kingdom would provide approximately 13 MJ (3100 kcal)/person per d, while the energy intake recommended for the population is approximately 9.6 MJ (2300 kcal)/person per d. A proportion of this substantial difference must be due to wastage in the home as well as in catering establishments and during the storage, distribution and processing of food.

2. As part of a general investigation of this problem, a representative sample of 1000 British households was asked to collect all the potentially-edible food wasted in their homes during 1 week, and to keep a record of the food, other than commercial pet food, which they gave to pets and wild birds. A total of 672 households co-operated fully, 338 in summer and 334 in winter. Each food sample received was weighed, and its energy content was determined calorimetrically.

3. Significantly more waste food was collected in summer than in winter, equivalent to 9.3 MJ (2220 kcal)/household per week and 7.1 MJ (1700 kcal)/household per week respectively. In terms of energy, cereals, fat and meat wastage predominated, while in terms of weight, milk was more important and fat less so.

4. Considerable quantities of otherwise edible food were also given to pets and birds, accounting on average for a further 2.4 MJ (570 kcal) and 3.0 MJ (710 kcal)/household per week in summer and winter respectively. The energy content of all food wasted in the home therefore averaged 11.7 MJ (2790 kcal)/household per week in summer and 10.1 MJ (2410 kcal)/household per week in winter, equivalent to 0.6 MJ (150 kcal) and 0.5 MJ (130 kcal)/person per d respectively. This is less than one-quarter of the gap between food supplies and the amount of food thought to be eaten in the UK.

5. Food wastage was significantly influenced by the composition of the family, with adults wasting more in absolute terms than children, and larger households wasting less per person than smaller households. However, with few exceptions, neither income nor geographical region significantly affected the total amount of food wasted in the home.

6. When assessed against the expected usage of food in the home, wastage accounted on average for 6.5% of the energy intake in summer and 5.4% in winter.

(Received May 24 1979)

(Accepted July 04 1979)