Supermarkets could share excess food with families struggling in the economic downturn in a Government drive to cut food waste and help those in need.

Food retailers would be encouraged to log details of food products approaching the end of their shelf life on a database, according to the Daily Mail. Charities would then be able to see the information and arrange collection for distribution to those impacted by the economic downturn.

Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, The Co-op, M&S and Boots are backing a summit the Government is holding today. It aims to bring together supermarkets, retail industry leaders and food charities to discuss how they can work together better.

Food charities FareShare and FoodCycle will also be attending the meeting. Some retailers have been reluctant to work with the charities for fear that people will fall ill from the food.

The British Retail Consortium said all its members already give surplus food to charities. It believes the scheme should apply to all food retailers.

Sainsbury’s said it was “one of the first major retailers to divert all food waste from landfill in 2011”. The programme included preventing 400,000 tonnes of food being wasted through new freezing labelling guidance for customers.

Sainsbury’s Property Director Neil Sachdev said:

“We’re proud of our commitment to reduce the environmental impact of our operations.  Less than five per cent of food waste is generated by retail, compared to nearly 50% from households yet eliminating food waste has been one of our top priorities. 

“We have worked hard to achieve and sustain zero food waste to landfill by implementing a series of initiatives to ensure surplus food and food waste gets put to good use.  We believe this is the best solution to waste food across the industry, which is better for our communities and the environment.”