| THE average person in Spain throws away 179 kilos of food a year – and most of it is edible at the time, a recent survey has shown.
And this is in a country where 1.3 million people have to turn to soup kitchens and food banks because they cannot afford to eat.
This figure of 179 kilos per head is the average for the European Union as a whole, and is fairly consistent across member States.
It translates to 89 million tonnes of food per annum, says the UN, of which 60 per cent is still perfectly edible.
The EU intends to look into clarifying food labels to a greater extent, by making 'use by' and 'sell by' dates more realistic and easy to understand, in a bid to cut this figure by half by the year 2025.
They say the 'use by' date means a food item is probably not in conditions to be eaten and cannot be sold, but once the 'sell by' date has passed, it may still be of sufficient quality that it poses no risk to health, nor will the taste be affected.
An association which manages 54 food banks in Spain, with 2,000 volunteers distributing donated food to 7,000 charitable organisations, says its requests for help have risen by 40 per cent in the last year – but that it is unable to attend to everyone.
They hand out rice, milk, pasta, fresh fruit and vegetables, and biscuits, among other items, usually in perfect conditions but some with damaged packets or tins or which are close to their 'sell by' or 'use by' date and would not otherwise be sold by supermarkets in time.
But as a result of the recession, donations to food banks are falling even further, particularly as supermarkets choose to sell off damaged items or those close to their 'use by' dates at lower prices instead of giving them away.
This said, food bank associations have agreements in place with certain producers, such as Danone and Marcilla, for providing yoghurt and coffee, involving supermarkets such as Carrefour which will match the total donated directly by the brands, and also with Día, which is preparing a mass food collection operation in the 300-plus stores it has in Andalucía, Catalunya and Zaragoza.