The Real Junk Food Project is growing in popularity with “pay as you feel” locations opening around the country in a bid to campaign against and reduce food waste. Recently the project has attracted the attention of Trading Standards in West Yorkshire, who are investigating the project for selling out of date food. Inspectors reportedly found more than 400 items which were past their use by date at the project’s warehouse.
Adam Smith, who founded the Real Junk Food Project, could face charges for serving out of date food and public reaction has been strong. The Real Junk Food Project started a petition asking the FSA to look at the food labelling procedure and amend regulations on best before and use by dates and Adam Smith released the following statement:
“I understand that I have been invited to a formal PACE interview by the West Yorkshire Trading Standards, by letter in respect of an alleged breach of Regulation 19(1) of the Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013 following an inspection of Grangefield Industrial Estate on 11 April 2017. I have agreed to attend this interview in the spirit of cooperation with the Trading Standards authority, having been given less than 24 hours notice of this interview.
“However, I had not appreciated the significance of this matter for the charity until I was contacted by a specialist legal adviser (providing assistance on a pro bono basis).
“As Trading Standards will appreciate, the Regulations around food safety and hygiene are complex and technical and my current belief is that neither the Real Junk Food Project, nor any of its officers, has committed an offence in respect of this matter. However I am obliged, on behalf of the charity, to seek further advice before commenting any further in respect of this matter.”
Sainsbury’s, M&S and Neighbourly have reportedly stopped their partnerships with the Real Junk Food Policy as a precautionary measure in light of the investigation.
Mike Williams, Director of STS, says: “This is a really tricky scenario that goes down to the base safety of foods and the steps that manufacturers take to ensure that consumers are not sick after eating these foods. The application of use by dates is to show that the food will be safe until that date but afterwards may have deteriorated, or microorganisms may have grown to levels that will make the consumer ill. In simple terms, it is a strict offence to sell food that has passed its use by date and the enforcing authority in this case is following the legal requirement.
“Food wastage is a very hot topic at the moment. Retailers and manufacturers are facing calls to reduce wastage and many are taking good steps to achieve this, for example the Sainsbury’s project in Swadlincote where they are working with local consumers to reduce food waste. It’s believed that in 2015 consumers wasted over £13bn worth of food, of which around a third was thought to have been edible.
“Organisations such as the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) are already working with many local authorities and with manufactures to reduce waste through local, regional and national procurement plans. Much is being done but more can still be achieved.
“Food charities such as the Real Junk Food Project are highly commendable but there is still a legal requirement to ensure that the food they provide to their consumers is safe. Simply looking, smelling or feeling food will not always tell you if food is safe so the observance of use by dates is still a really important factor when providing any food to consumers.”