Guidance

How food businesses must dispose of food and former foodstuffs

How food shops, manufacturers, and distributors must dispose of or handle former foodstuffs or food waste.

If your business sells or distributes food, you may have to dispose of waste.

This waste may include foods that are no longer intended for human consumption - these are known as former foodstuffs.

If food waste or former foodstuffs are of animal origin or contain products of animal origin, you must dispose of them in a way that doesn’t pose a risk to human or animal health.

When foods become former foodstuffs

Foods of animal origin or foods that contain products of animal origin and are intended for human consumption may be removed from sale when they:

  • have passed their sell by or use by date
  • are visually imperfect, or have damaged packaging
  • are spoiled, mouldy, or decomposing

The manager of your site must then make the decision that the foodstuff is no longer intended for human consumption.

At this point the foodstuff becomes an animal by-product (ABP) and this decision can’t be reversed.

Risk groups for former foodstuffs

All former foodstuffs are category 3 ABPs.

Within this they can be divided into 3 groups, based on the risks they pose when disposing of them.

Higher risk

If you’re disposing of any of the following products, you must not send them to landfill or use them to make farm animal feed:

  • raw meat, fish, and seafood in packs or loose which needs to be cooked before eating
  • raw sausages, bacon and gammon
  • raw meat, poultry, fish or seafood items in any coating (like breadcrumbs or batter) or sauces (eg barbeque, curry etc)
  • raw burgers
  • raw eggs (including shells)
  • untreated milk (find out more about how to dispose of untreated milk)
  • all raw meat and fish that come from food production, even if they were not meant to be cooked before human consumption
  • partially cooked meat
  • sashimi (raw fish) or sushi containing sashimi
  • smoked dried or cured meat, eg bresaola, beef jerky, salami, parma ham, chorizo etc

You must not cook these products to alter their status.

Any packaging used to contain higher risk products must be disposed of according to the same rules.

Find out about the 3 categories of ABP and how you can dispose of them.

Medium risk

If you’re disposing of the following foodstuffs no longer fit for human consumption, you can send them to landfill but you can’t use them as farm animal feed:

  • any meat and fish products, that are fully pre-cooked
  • any products that contain cooked meat or fish
  • cooked prawns, dressed crabs and lobsters, seafood sticks, cooked ready to eat mussels
  • shells from cooked seafood and eggs
  • ready meals (meals for reheating where the meat or fish is precooked)
  • pies and pasties (including sausage rolls) and pizza where the meat is pre-cooked
  • highly processed meat and fish products in cans, jars, pouches or shelf stable aluminium packaging
  • dried animal products - eg powdered soups
  • flavourings or other highly processed animal products
  • stock cubes made using meat or fish extracts
  • fats or dripping that came from cooking meat or poultry
  • greaves
  • honey (provided it’s sealed in leak-proof containers)

If your site is a bakery and you’re treating waste by baking it prior to disposal, you must make sure the waste was:

  • created during your normal production process
  • originally cooked on the same premises
  • heat treated in the same way as products intended for human consumption normally would be

Lower risk

To dispose of any of the following products, you can send them to landfill or use them to make farm animal feed:

Handling or disposing of catering waste

Any waste food (including used cooking oil) that comes from restaurants, catering sites, commercial or household kitchens is defined as catering waste.

If your site has a cafe or restaurant on it, or sells sandwiches that are made in store, any waste you produce from this is also considered catering waste.

How to dispose of catering waste

Catering waste is considered a category 1 ABP if it’s International Catering Waste (ICW).

ICW is catering waste that comes from international transport vehicles.

Catering waste is a category 3 ABP if you send it to compost or biogas factories, or to be processed.

Find out about the different categories of ABP and how you must dispose of them.

You can send catering waste to landfill sites, provided they are licensed or permitted by the Environment Agency.

You must never send catering waste to be used as farm animal feed or to be used as pet food.

This ban includes processed catering waste, known as ‘swill’.

The ban is to stop the spread of notifiable diseases in animals, like foot and mouth disease, classical swine fever, or avian influenza.

You can send low risk former foodstuffs for use in farm animal feed, but you must keep them separate from catering waste and any medium or high risk former foodstuffs.

You must maintain this separation at all stages, from the shelf to any collection bins you use.

Sending former foodstuffs to landfill

If you’re sending medium and low risk foodstuffs or non-ABP food products to landfill, you must make sure you have a system which excludes raw meat, raw fish and any high risk foodstuffs.

If your site is a factory you must make sure you separate production lines that carry raw products from those that deal with cooked products.

If you’re a retailer, a distributor, or a manufacturer, you can send up to 20kg of raw or partially cooked meat, fish or shellfish products to landfill every week.

This is a weekly limit, not an average limit over a number of weeks.

Returning food or former foodstuffs

If you run a supermarket or a shop, you may want to return food to supermarket returns depots or distribution centres to be redistributed for humans to eat.

If you do this, you must follow food safety regulations.

If you’re returning former foodstuffs at the same time as food, you must keep them separate from each other.

You must also keep surplus bakery or confectionery products entirely separate from meat, fish, or shellfish products, if you’re sending them for use as farm animal feed.

This includes during their entire journey to and from a returns depot, and when you’re sending them for use at a feed business.

You can do this by:

  • selecting surplus bakery goods from low risk areas of the store
  • putting surplus bakery goods in sealed colour-coded clear plastic bags or boxes, which are a different colour to any used for other food waste
  • transporting surplus bakery goods in their own dedicated roll cages or boxes
  • keeping boxes and roll cages separate at the returns depot

You should also check bags and boxes containing surplus bakery products, at your returns depot, to make sure they don’t contain any meat, fish, or shellfish, or other waste products.

You must transport raw meat and raw fish and any products containing them in sealed and colour-coded plastic bags, in drip trays, to prevent leakage.

You should consider whether chilling or freezing is needed to keep materials from spoiling or decomposing, when the temperature outside is high.

Find out how to transport ABPs safely and label them for transit.

Loading and unloading at a supermarket or manufacturing returns depot

There are 3 main ways you can handle ABPs when they arrive at your site.

You can:

  • move them directly to storage
  • empty them into separate containers
  • keep them in a dedicated and separate area

Moving directly to storage

Constant flow means that you move roll cages containing colour-coded bags of bread or bakery products directly to storage in a bulker or transport unit.

Emptying into separate containers

You should have a separate container for:

  • bread and bakery products
  • raw meat and fish products
  • other food products

If you’re using this method you must make sure you:

  • move the materials in their containers for separate storage in a bulker or transport unit
  • keep each container 1.2 metres apart and only fill them from the front
  • separate the containers and area 1.2m in front with temporary barriers, eg cones
  • clean the containers at the end of the day or the end of the shift

Separate area

You can also use an entirely separate area at your site to store or hold roll cages containing ABPs.

If you do this you must make sure:

  • it’s clearly delineated from areas where former foodstuffs ineligible for feeding are stored
  • you separate storage areas for foods that can be used for feed and foods that can’t, with a solid boundary, a pallet’s width away
  • you have signs that clearly show the area is meant to be used as ‘storage for foodstuffs eligible for feeding only’

Find out more about site hygiene, safety, and storage

Published 21 October 2014