How are people who buy groceries wrong

Throwing away food doesn't have to be!

By: Gisela Horlemann - Consumer Service Bavaria

We live in one Throwaway society. This can also be seen in the Eat. Sorted out is already in the field, but industry and trade also dispose of it generously. The main part of the Waste However, it arises in consumers' homes: they throw 6.1 million tons every year Foodl away, that is an average of over 75 kilograms per person. A large part of it is still edible.

This lack of Appreciation of food is also due to the constant availability and the extremely low price level compared to other EU countries.

However, everyone who has to do with food can do something to prevent as much waste from being created.

  • From retail to consumer - who throws away?
  • How much is thrown away from private households
  • Bavarian dates
  • Throwing away isn't just a financial problem
  • Sorting is already done in the field
  • Industry and trade - too much ends up in the trash
  • Large consumers also throw away
  • Reasons for household waste
    • The best before date - often misunderstood.
    • The use-by date - until then and no further
    • The cold chain is often interrupted
    • Stored incorrectly - already spoiled
  • Counter-strategies when purchasing
  • Which foods end up in the trash most often?
  • Tips for dealing with leftover food

From retail to consumer - who throws away?

Shaken up by documentaries such as "taste the waste" or the "Essensvernichter", the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection commissioned a study on the subject of food waste from the University of Stuttgart in 2012. However, primary production was not included in this study. This study has now been carried out again in 2015 for all areas from the field to the plate.

The researchers from the University of Stuttgart and the Heinrich von Thünen Institute (TI) come to the conclusion that agriculture, industry, trade, bulk consumers and private households dispose of almost 12 million tons of food as waste every year.

According to the study, the majority of this food waste is generated in private households (52 percent), followed by large-scale consumers such as restaurants or canteens, industry and agriculture.

This is illustrated in the figure below.

Of a total of 12 million tonnes of food waste, 1.4 million t (12%) are in primary production, 2.2 million t (18%) in food processing, and 6.1 million t (52%) in private Households, 1.7 million t (14%) for out-of-home catering and 0.5 million t (1.4%) for wholesale and retail.

How much is thrown away from private households?

According to the study, around 6.1 million tons of food are disposed of by private households nationwide every year. In the cut throws every German citizen 75 kilograms per year path. 47 percent of the food thrown away would still be edible.

The value of avoidable food waste is estimated at EUR 200 per person per year. In a four-person household, the average amounts to around 800-900 euros per year. That burdens the household budget.

Extrapolated to Germany, it is up to 20 billion euros per year that avoidable waste costs private households.

Bavarian dates



The Society for Consumer Research (GFK) examined food waste in Bavaria in 2016/2017. It came to different results than the Bavarian study by the University of Stuttgart from 2014.

Private households in Bavaria throw away around 0.6 million tons of food (including drinks) per year, which is more than 103 kg per household. This means that the amount of food waste in Bavaria is lower than in other federal states.

42 percent (44 percent in Germany) would still have been usable.

Throwing away isn't just a financial problem

The destruction of food is an additional one ethical problem. Especially since people in other regions of the world are dying of hunger. Stefan Kreutzberger and Valentin Thurn write in their book with the title "Die Essenvernichter": "If we were to throw away less, world market prices would fall and there would be enough available for the hungry of the world".

But it is also an ecological problem. Because production, processing and transport consume large amounts of energy, valuable raw materials and arable land. Waste of food thus contributes to climate change.

Sorting is already done in the field

Harvest and storage losses are caused by the weather and pest infestation. Careful monitoring of production and good training of farmers is the best counter-strategy.
But fruits and vegetables are also sorted out during harvest if they are too small, have the wrong shape or do not look flawless. Retailers and consumers alike love immaculate food. The appearance usually has no influence on the taste or the health value.

Industry and trade - too much ends up in the trash

Industry with around 18 percent and retail with around 7 percent food waste could also improve their care in the production and sale of food.
Improved logistics could help avoid incorrect batches and overproduction.

Above all, the cold chain must be carefully observed and matched to the corresponding food. For example, fruit that has been optimally transported lasts much longer and tastes better. 35 percent of all perishable food has to be disposed of because the cold chain is not right.

Retailers dispose of bananas with cracked peels or large packs such as nets, sacks or bags because a food item is damaged. More loose goods would be a solution here. In recent years this has also been increasingly implemented by discounters.
Supermarkets should sell more products at a lower price shortly before the expiration date. Many consumers appreciate such offers.

It also makes sense to pass on unsold goods to charitable organizations and avoid food waste. Sharing food, i.e. giving away food that is not needed, or cooking together with strangers are approaches to combating food waste. Foodsharing, an internet platform on the subject, was launched by Valentin Thurm and has already found many imitators.

Large consumers also throw away

Restaurants, canteens as well as schools and hotels are subject to strict food hygiene regulations. The inevitable result is that food has to be thrown away. However, the portions on offer are often so large that only very hungry people can empty their plates. In restaurants, the service staff often reacts with understanding when you want to take the leftover food with you and they already have packaging material in stock. That this is legally possible has now been made clear.

However, a larger selection of smaller or half servings would be desirable.

Reasons for household waste

According to the Nutrition Report 2018, 63 percent of those surveyed now shop more consciously. More than half say that they use leftover food better to avoid waste. Consumers now understand the best before date better. In Bavaria every third pack is thrown away unopened when the best-before date has been exceeded, in Germany every second.

XXL packs are more often on offer than smaller packs, but the quantities are usually not required. A smaller pack is more expensive at first glance, but it pays off because nothing has to be thrown away.

The packs are often too big for the many single households, but lots of groceries are not available loose.

But also a lack of overview of your own supplies and incorrect storage lead to food being thrown away.

The best before date - often misunderstood.

The best-before date is not an expiration date. The manufacturer guarantees that all important properties of a food will be retained until then. For example, if cheese or jam is moldy before this date, you can complain. After that, there may be a loss of taste and quality that cannot be complained about. Most of the time, foods that have passed their best-before date are still edible. Check the look, smell, and taste of a food to see if it's still okay.

Anyone who buys a food to consume on the same or the next day can also buy one with a shorter shelf life.

The use-by date - until then and no further

The use-by date indicates the point in time by which a food should actually be consumed. It is prescribed for particularly perishable products such as minced meat or fresh poultry. These foods are particularly susceptible to spoilage from germs. These can multiply quickly within a few days and then be harmful to health. The recommended storage temperature should be strictly adhered to.

Loose goods have no use-by date, but minced meat and minced meat products must be used on the day of purchase. Otherwise the risk of illness is very high.

The cold chain is seldom adhered to

In order to maintain the quality of a food, the cold chain should only be interrupted as briefly as possible when transporting these products from the store to the home. This applies above all to meat and sausage, but also to milk and dairy products. Frozen meals should be transported in a cooler bag.

Stored incorrectly - already spoiled

Every food has its storage requirements.

  • Flour, pasta or oils like it dry on the dark shelf.
  • Tropical fruits like room temperatures.
  • Salad, as well as many types of vegetables and fruits, do not wither as quickly when the humidity is around 60 percent, they are ideal for storing in the refrigerator.

Information sheet from the Bavarian Consumer Service on the storage of fruit and vegetables

The refrigerator should also be arranged according to its cold zones.

Article: Put the refrigerator in place

Purchasing strategies

The temptations when shopping are great. Everything is nicely decorated and the shopping is already bigger than planned. The only thing that helps is a shopping list so that you don't get tempted.
Once the meals have been set for the next few days, the loudspeaker voices with the "super special offers" also have no effect.
It is also easier to shop full. The tempting smells, for example from the baking station, then fail to have an effect.

Which foods end up in the trash most often?

Vegetables and fruits make up 34 percent of all avoidable food waste in private households. Close behind is leftover food (16%), bread, rolls and baked goods (14%), 11% beverages, 9% dairy products, 7% finished products, 5% other items and 4% meat & fish.
The following diagram shows this at a glance:


In Bavaria, food waste is distributed as follows: fruit with 19.1 percent, leftover food with 16.5 percent and fresh vegetables with 15.9 percent, baked goods with 14.4 percent

Leftovers don't have to be thrown away There are many books or online portals that contain recipes with leftover food. The leaflet from the Bavarian Consumer Service also offers a selection of recipes.

Tips for dealing with leftover food

Cut the vegetables into fine strips, fry them briefly and season them with an Asian or Mediterranean flavor to create a light snack. If it is not to be eaten straight away, it can be turned into a delicious antipasti with a little (balsam) vinegar.
Grated in a pancake batter, leftover vegetables make excellent vegetable pancakes.

Anyone who has to process eggs conjures up a tortilla or a casserole from these ingredients.
Fruit leftovers make a variety of fruit salads.

Suitable for freezing:

  • Leftovers of butter, milk or cream
  • Bread, rolls and pretzels,
  • Leftover ham, bacon, sausage or roast

Political approaches

Germany has joined the United Nations' goal of halving food waste by 2030. At the beginning of 2019, the Federal Cabinet adopted the “National Strategy for the Reduction of Food Waste”. “The aim is to halve per capita food waste in Germany at retail and consumer level by 2030 and to reduce the food waste that occurs along the production and supply chain, including post-harvest losses.

The BMEL's information campaign "too good for the bin" provides information and tips against food waste.

In 2016, the Bavarian Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Forestry established the Bavarian alliance “We save food!”. Strategies and measures were developed together with various alliance partners from research, industry, trade, the farmers' association and consumer protection associations such as ConsumerService Bavaria and the consumer center. For example, the stocky app, which can make it easier to keep stocks and use leftovers.

Since the various information campaigns have been running, the “throw-away behavior” has changed. According to the GFK study, the proportion of households that buy less in advance is increasing. Groceries that have been reduced in price because the best-before date has expired are also increasingly finding buyers.

Garbage can with groceries © shootingankauf -
brown bananas © muwan -

  • Food waste levels by sector in the food supply chain
    According to the study, the total amount of waste is around twelve million tonnes of food waste (fresh matter).
    • Primary production has a share of 12 percent (1.4 million tons).
    • During processing, for example due to technical malfunctions in the temperature control, 18 percent (2.2 million tons) are generated.
    • 4 percent (0.5 million tons) of food waste occurs in retail, for example when the packaging is not portioned as required.
    • In the case of out-of-home catering, 14 percent (1.7 million tons) of waste is generated.
    • The majority of food waste is generated in private households, at 52 percent (6.1 million tons).
    • Every consumer throws away around 75 kilograms of food a year.

The Free State of Bavaria provides you with independent, science-based information on consumer protection on this website.
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