Hundreds of kilos of fruit and vegetables were dumped in the same week a food bank warned that more Exmouth families than ever did not have enough to eat.

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Stokes and Johnson, Chapel Street, shut-up shop almost two weeks ago – and, for a week, piles of fruit and vegetables sat in the store rotting.

It was not until a week later, when residents complained to environmental health chiefs at the district council, that the food was cleared - and thrown away.

Exmouth resident Debbie Langdon, who took a photograph of the wasted food, said: “It is such a shame and waste with so many people struggling in these winter months.”

Brett Kimberley said: “Couldn’t they have arranged to give it to the homeless, if it’s edible?”

Tim Davies, deputy manager of the Exmouth Community Larder, said: “We didn’t know Stokes was closing. If we had known, maybe we could have arranged something and used some of the food, instead of it rotting and being thrown away.

“We are getting busier – we help 10 families a week and that takes a lot of food.”

Exmouth’s deputy mayor, Bill Nash, pointed the finger at what he called ‘ridiculous’ rules governing sell-by dates. “To waste that amount of food is deplorable,” he said. “The problem is that they can’t give it away because they are governed by silly European Union laws on perishable goods.”

But charity Fairshare, which collects “surplus” food and gives it to the homeless, elderly and struggling families, said: “If the food was stored correctly and fit for consumption, there was no reason why it couldn’t have been given away. But this isn’t always a priority if a company has other problems to deal with.”

Councillor Steve Gazzard added: “I was appalled. It wouldn’t have taken much to give it away.”

The Journal had not managed to contact Stokes and Johnson at the time of going to press.

● The Exmouth Community Larder needs non-perishable food for needy families. Call 07749322291.

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