British may outlaw 'Buy one, get one free'

produceBuy one, get one free (BOGOF) -- a mainstay of American marketing strategies, is under attack in Europe for promoting food waste.

The Finnish government's attempt to ban the practice is now tied up in the EU courts, but that isn't stopping the British government from considering doing the same.

According to Advertising Age, more than 30% of all food sold in Britain ends up going to waste, costing the average household almost $700 annually.

Opponents of BOGOF claim that by encouraging shoppers to buy two items nearing their expiration dates (steaks, for example) rather than simply marking each off by 50%, many shoppers buy more than they can consume before the meat goes south.

I'm skeptical that this is a solution and that it is a worthwhile use of the government's time. The obvious caveat is that outlawing BOGOF will only reduce waste if the store is able to sell all of the product. If it ends up pitching half of the goods because they've reached the expiration date, the ban will have had no effect.

In the age of refrigeration, consumers could do what my wife and I, devoted BOGOF shoppers, do -- freeze meat. Old vegetables make great new soup, old fruit, yummy jams. And local food banks may be able to use some of the items.

What is the source of waste in our food system? In our household, the boxcar-sized packages of meat and produce at Sam's Club are one cause; we love our bargains, and overestimate our cooking ambition.

Perhaps the greatest generator of waste, however, is the mega-groceries that are so time-consuming to shop at that we limit our trips to once a week or two. If we were shopping nearby daily for the food we needed for the next day, we'd be much less likely to end up with waste bins full of good intentions.

In a world where food production is expensive to the environment and the wallet, cutting waste has obvious benefits. However, passing laws forbidding "Buy one, get one free" strikes me as an unfruitful use of our time and resources.,feedConfig,entry&id=351713&pid=351712&uts=1250182082
Combatting the Rising Price of Food
Buy one, get one free (BOGOF) -- a mainstay of American marketing strategies, is under attack in Europe for promoting food waste. For other news on food, click through this gallery. Prep for a price increase!
David McNew, Getty Images
David McNew, Getty Images
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