Paul Featherstone, chairman of the UK Former Foodstuffs Processors Association (UKFFPA), on its role in ensuring surplus baked goods are returned to the food chain

This year has seen a significant change in how former foodstuffs are categorised by European and UK authorities.

The term ‘former foodstuffs’ applies to products from food manufacturing that cannot be used for human consumption, but can be processed for animal feed, ultimately returning them via animal products to the human food supply chain. Guidelines published by the EU earlier this year clarified the role of former foodstuffs, making it clear that they are not ‘waste’ but a valuable resource that, if recycled, reduces the food industry’s overall environmental footprint.

The nine member companies of the UK Former Foodstuffs Processors Association process around 650,000 tonnes (t) every year. The biggest proportion of this – 56% – comes from bakery, pastry, pasta and breakfast cereal manufacture. Other foodstuffs processed come from confectionery; fresh produce; savoury snacks; co-products from brewing and distilling; and cereal grains and derived products.

The energy in the food products processed is equivalent to around 755,000t of feed wheat – a quantity that would take 92,000 hectares of land to grow. While the association is committed to ensuring that, wherever possible, food goes for human consumption, it is also fulfilling a valuable role in preventing food from being used for energy generation or going to landfill.

As expected of an industry involved in the supply chain, food/feed safety standards are high. The only industry with a greater degree of regulation is believed to be the nuclear industry.

Organisations such as the Food Standards Agency and Wrap have been quick to acknowledge the valuable role played by our members. Wrap believes there is potential to increase the amount of food products going into animal feed by 20% by 2025.

At Christmas, the amount of surplus food rises as, towards the end of August/ beginning of September, manufacturers gear up to produce products with longer shelf lives, such as biscuits, confectionery and mince pies. In the New Year, supplies will dip to half normal levels as manufacturers respond to reduced consumer demand due to New Year’s resolutions.

Throughout this period we continue to play a crucial role for bread manufacturers, who work tirelessly throughout the festive period to ensure we all have access to freshly baked bread.