Ben Elliot: 'Redistribution in a time of crisis - no good food should go to waste'

Ben Elliot, the Food Surplus and Waste Champion for Defra, has written to the UK’s leading food manufacturers, major retailers, hospitality businesses and redistribution organisations urging them to ensure that ALL surplus food that’s safe and suitable to eat is made available and redistributed.

'First off, I want to thank you all for the incredible work you are doing to keep the supply of food going here in the UK, and especially to those who are vulnerable at this time. I know that food businesses across the supply chain and redistribution organisations are already working flat out on the distribution of food, and on the redistribution of surplus food. I have been in contact with many of you as we coordinate a response to this terrible virus.'At this exceptional time it is even more important that no good food goes to waste. All surplus food that is safe and suitable to be eaten by people should be made available and redistributed to those who need it.

'My colleagues in Defra and WRAP are providing support in a number of ways, through making emergency funding available to redistributors, acting to facilitate partnerships between those who have surplus and those who can make use of it and producing guidance to help ensure the maximum amount of surplus food is redistributed, something I am passionate about. 

' I would ask that you all take time to consider the following, to ensure that more food reaches more people, faster:

  1. 'Review and if necessary update your internal guidelines for what can be redistributed. Organisations should review their current approach to redistribution, and consult WRAP guidelines. There should be a focus on identifying any surplus food that is not already going for redistribution, and removing unnecessary constraints within your own organisations or on suppliers or partners. 
    • All suitable  food surplus should be made available for redistribution including both branded and own-brand products, fresh, ambient, chilled and frozen foods. If necessary companies should relax existing guidelines, to allow the donation of food past the 'Best Before' date, and branded products that might currently not being offered to redistribution organisations.
    • Redistribution organisations should also ease any restrictions on the types of food surplus that they can safely accept, for example on food that has passed its 'Best Before' date.
  2. 'Review stocks. Food producers, retailers and hospitality and food service businesses should assess all surplus stock arising from the closure of premises, or changes in food production, and proactively approach redistribution organisations that may be able to use it. If existing partners cannot take the surplus, and businesses are unable to identify a recipient they can email surplus@wrap.org.uk and WRAP will endeavour to help. 
'I would be extremely grateful if you could take personal responsibility for taking a lead here, and clearly communicate the above to all relevant staff as a priority.
 
'If you have any further questions please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us on the above email.' 
 
Yours
 
Ben Elliot (Defra Food Surplus and Waste Champion)