• Plastic wrap helps preserve cucumbers, which have a thin skin and are easily affected by cold or dehydration. (Image by Anna Gregory, licenced under CC BY 2.0)
    Plastic wrap helps preserve cucumbers, which have a thin skin and are easily affected by cold or dehydration. (Image by Anna Gregory, licenced under CC BY 2.0)
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More than half of Australian shoppers are unhappy with wastage across supermarkets, including the overuse of plastic packaging and the discarding of imperfect produce.

A survey of 1008 Australian adults by risk management provider SAI Global, which audits food retailers and manufacturers to insure regulatory compliance, found that 53 per cent believed there is too much plastic packaging in supermarkets, and 39 per cent want retailers to stop rejecting produce for cosmetic reasons if it would result in the food being thrown away.

According to Andrew Nash, food safety expert at SAI Global, though plastic overuse should be reduced where possible, supermarkets use plastic to ensure food safety.

“Plastic is effective in protecting high risk foods, such as meat and dairy, from contamination through the millions of pathogens and microorganisms in the environment. Plastic, particularly if it’s shrink-wrapped, also helps prevent food from oxidising and spoiling quickly, and it is a good protectant from chemicals in the atmosphere.

“Dozens of people are likely to handle our foods through the entire supply chain process – including other shoppers. Supermarkets need to reduce the risks of cross-contamination. 

“Plastic also assists to reduce food wastage by providing an extra layer of protection. For example, English cucumbers have a particularly thin skin and the tight plastic wrapping helps them to last longer in the fridge by acting as an insulator to protect against cold injury and also slows dehydration and spoilage,” he said.

Older shoppers tend to favour reducing plastic more than younger shoppers, the survey found, with 63 per cent of over-65s wanting less plastic packaging in supermarkets compared with 39 per cent of 18-24s.

Most states agreed that there was too much packaging, with only Victoria (48 per cent) and Queensland (49 per cent) reporting less than half of responses agreeing with the question.

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