Supermarkets snub food plea
Just one of the four leading supermarket chains plans to donate food to charity in response to a government request to reduce the 29 tonnes of edible food dumped by retailers every day.
A spokeswoman for Wellcome said it had held talks with the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department about taking part in its pilot food recycling programme and planned to launch a trial donation scheme in partnership with a charity.
'Wellcome is in the process of identifying a potential partner and working out a feasible implementation plan,' she said.
Last month, Friends of the Earth released the results of a survey showing how supermarkets disposed of tonnes of food before its expiry date. It investigated ParknShop, Wellcome, CR Vanguard and Jusco, which command a 53 per cent share of Hong Kong's retail sector.
The discarded food was enough to feed 48,000 three-person families, one food bank manager said.
In a response to lawmakers' questions, environment minister Edward Yau Tang-wah said at a Legislative Council meeting yesterday that the bureau met bosses at the four chains, suggesting that they consider donating food to charities.
'We expressed our wish that supermarkets actively consider collaborating with non-profit organisations,' Yau said. 'We encourage the trade to put such surplus food to good use and to minimise the disposal of edible surplus food.'
A ParknShop spokeswoman said it had contacted selected food banks and had been investigating the safety and logistics of donating edible food.
In newspaper advertisements, it said it would consider options to reduce waste, but was cautious about safety. 'Giving away food, which has expired, has been damaged or decayed and taken down from the racks to be disposed of, would involve food safety risks,' it said.
But Friends of the Earth estimates that about 30 per cent of ParknShop's food waste is not out of date.
A Jusco spokeswoman said it was studying the most feasible and safe method to handle food waste, and it had been trying to minimise waste by monitoring supply and sales.
CR Vanguard has yet to respond to inquiries.
Lawmaker Wong Sing-chi said he doubted how active supermarkets would be in following up on the government's suggestion.
ParknShop's advert said it would be better to reduce waste at source, such as by returning surplus stock to suppliers and cutting prices of food nearing its expiry date.
ParknShop also denied accusations that it poured water and bleach onto dumped food to stop scavengers. It said the company guidelines stated that food should be destroyed before being disposed of.
Friends of the Earth and food banks suggested food donors should be exempt from liability in the event beneficiaries fell ill. But Yau said existing food donation programmes had guidelines defining the responsibilities of the parties involved.