The Real Junk Food Project (RJFP) could face prosecution for selling out-of-date food destined for landfill, after West Yorkshire Trading Standards (WYTSS) said it found more than 400 items past their use-by date in its Leeds warehouse.
According to reports by BBC News, a letter sent to RJFP from WYTSS states 444 items, which were a cumulative total of 6,345 days past the use-by dates, were discovered in the charity’s warehouse in Pudsey, Leeds.
WYTSS said project founder, Adam Smith, was invited to attend an “formal recorded interview under caution” to discuss offences which may have been committed under the Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013.
Mr Smith said he hoped the meeting would help create a debate around the legislation.
RJFP has 127 cafes in seven countries across the world. It describes itself as a “revolutionary concept designed to challenge and highlight the issues of food waste while creating inclusive environments where everyone is welcome.
“Consisting of cafés, outside catering, events, Sharehouse’s and Fuel For School, we use the Pay As You Feel Concept to utilise surplus food, educate the general public and campaign against global issues that food waste creates.
“We’ve got 127 cafes in seven countries across the world. We’ve fed over one million people worldwide with food that’s expired and still to this day no-one has ever been sick. So we can prove that we can make this food safe for human consumption.”
“We intercept surplus food from a wide range of places including supermarkets, restaurants, wholesalers, food banks, food photographers and using common sense and decades of experience make a judgment on whether the food is fit for human consumption.”
Mr Smith said: “[The letter] was claiming that we were making food unfit for human consumption available to the general public, which is true, because that’s what we’ve done since day one when we opened three-and-a-half years ago.
“We’ve fed over one million people worldwide with food that’s expired and still to this day no-one has ever been sick. So we can prove that we can make this food safe for human consumption.
“I’m quite positive about it. Just because it’s the law doesn’t make it right. We can prove that the food is safe for human consumption.
“We’re not going to stop serving food to people that’s expired because it will then go to waste and that’s the reason that we’re here.”
Under EU law, implemented by domestic legislation, food that is past its “use-by” date is deemed unsafe for human consumption and cannot be distributed.
WYTSS said it was unable to comment on the detail of an ongoing investigation.
[UPDATED 7 June 12.50pm]
Mr Smith released the following statement:
“The Real Junk Food Project recognises that approximately one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year, approximately 1.3bn tonnes, gets lost or wasted. Some 795m people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life.
“Our organisation believes that it is a human right to have access to food and the scale and senselessness of food waste has to stop, and it needs to happen in our lifetime, to ensure the next generation do not suffer from our ignorance.
“However, I had not appreciated the significance of this matter for the charity until I was contacted by a specialist legal adviser (providing advice on a pro bono basis) late yesterday evening.”
“I understand that I have been invited to a formal PACE Interview by the West Yorkshire Trading Standards, by letter in respect of an alleged breach of Regulation 19(1) of the Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013 following an inspection of Grangefield Industrial Estate on 11 April 2017. I have agreed to attend this interview in the spirit of cooperation with the Trading Standards authority, having been given less than 24 hours notice notice of this interview.
“However, I had not appreciated the significance of this matter for the charity until I was contacted by a specialist legal adviser (providing advice on a pro bono basis) late yesterday evening.
“As Trading Standards will appreciate, the Regulations around food safety and hygiene are complex and technical and my current belief is that neither the Real Junk Food Project, nor any of its officers, has committed an offence in respect of this matter. However I am obliged, on behalf of the charity, to seek further advice before commenting any further in respect of this matter.
“I wish to note that in doing so, in no way am I seeking to obstruct the enquiries of Trading Standards and I shall of course be happy to attend a further interview and provide such information as may be required once the position has been properly considered.”