The men reportedly removed tomatoes, mushrooms and cheese from the dustbins, which subsequently led to their arrest.
Paul May, 35, Jason Chan, 31, and William James, 23, were charged with being found “in an enclosed area, namely Iceland, for an unlawful purpose, namely stealing food”, under the Vagrancy Act.
The case is expected to highlight what is know as “freeganism”, which involves retrieving discarded food that is perfectly edible to save money and reduce food waste.
Iceland – “We are currently trying to find out from the Crown Prosecution Service why they believe that it is in the public interest to pursue a case against these three individuals, and will comment further when we are more fully informed”
In response, Iceland has said it had no knowledge of the prosecution until reports in the media appeared, and that it did not call the police, neither did it instigate the resulting prosecution.
“We are currently trying to find out from the Crown Prosecution Service why they believe that it is in the public interest to pursue a case against these three individuals, and will comment further when we are more fully informed,” the store said in a statement.
The total value of discarded food allegedly found amounted to £33, which the police returned to the store.
It added: “On the issue of food waste more generally, we work very closely with all our suppliers to minimise the amount of waste food Iceland generates. Products are only designated as waste when they have passed their use-by dates and are considered unfit for human consumption. We utilise secure storage areas and/or locked waste bins to dispose of such products because allowing them to be consumed by members of the public would constitute a significant health and safety risk. All our food waste is ultimately disposed of through an environmentally friendly process of anaerobic digestion.
“We sympathise with those who are struggling to meet their food bills and do our utmost to help not only by offering outstanding everyday value and great offers to our customers, but also through our support for Company Shop and a wide range of charities around the country.”