Bakery products top the league as the number one offenders in 'avoidable food waste', finds the UK’s non-profit group Waste & Resources Action Programme (Wrap).
Bakery equates to 782,000 tonnes of avoidable food waste each year, at an annual cost of £1.4m (€1.5m).
"Of all the bakery food waste arising, more than a third by weight is made up of bread slices," says the Wrap food waste report.
Bakery food waste tops all other sectors in avoidable food waste, beating vegetables, meat and fish, dairy, mixed foods, drinks and confectionery products.
But opportunities by the bakery industry to slash food waste this year could spring from a recent deregulatory move on bread size from Brussels that effectively abolished quantities that for centuries have been the rule of thumb in the UK.
Since the 12th century bread in the UK has been regulated by prescribed quantities, and is sold in 400g or 800g, or multiples of 400g thereafter.
But European directive 2007/45/EC, set to enter UK law this April, offers greater freedom to the bakers and retailers: loaves in the UK can weigh as little as 300g, be a medium-sized 600g, or an even larger, one kilo quantities.
"In 2009 we could see an increase in the consumption and availability of different sized loaves on the supermarket shelves as bakers take on board the new legislation," Gordon Polson, director of the UK's Federation of Bakers recently told BakeryandSnacks.com.
"The UK is probably one of the last countries in Europe to retain prescribed quantities, but this new law has thrown up new opportunities for the bakers," he added.
Some bakers have already started to make use of the deregulation. Major UK retailer Tesco last year launched for trial a 300g loaf aimed at single householders. The retail giant also trialled a family size one kilo loaf to the shelves, and a small 600g for medium needs.
And Warburton's, the largest family-owned bakery in the UK, recently widened its range of loaves by introducing a new 600g size loaf onto the market.
"The new 600g products have been very popular and are helping consumers use the food they buy," said the UK bakery.
High cost of bakery waste
According to Wrap's food waste report based on 2007 research data, nearly a third – 31 per cent – of all bakery items, in weight, are thrown away in the UK, with 2.6 billion slices of bread jettisoned into the bin each year.
And in terms of costs for avoidable bakery waste, nearly a quarter - 24.9 per cent – is attributable to world breads at a cost of £390,000 (€418,000) a year, that includes tortillas and naan breads.
A similar proportion, 23.1 per cent, hails from bread slices that annually chalk up £360,000 (€386,000) in waste costs. At 9.4 per cent, bread rolls and baguettes are the third biggest culprit in terms of costs for avoidable waste, totalling £130,000 (€140,000) a year.