A recent power cut at a Tesco store resulted in £10,000 worth of chilled food being thrown away. When Sacha Hall discovered this, she took some so that good food wouldn't "go to waste".
She now faces a possible jail sentence for handling stolen goods.
Miss Hall lived in a flat above Tesco Express in Great Baddow, Essex, from where she could see "lots of other people from the estate helping themselves" to the fresh food that had been thrown out.
She claimed that a friend had offered her some food, already packed into bags, which she took. She had intended to freeze some to give to her family.
Shortly after placing the food in her fridge, the police arrived to arrest her. They found £215 worth of food which included pies, potato waffles and 100 packs of ham.
Miss Hall said: "Tesco clearly did not want the food. They dumped it and rather than see it go to waste, I thought I could help feed me and my family for a week or two.
"I would think the police have better things to be doing with their time than going after people who pick up potato waffles from the street. It's all been blown totally out of proportion."
But Judge Rodger Hayward Smith QC, at her hearing, said: "This is more complex than I thought. She cannot consume 100 packs of ham.
"She was the conduit, things were being collected in her flat and she was going to distribute them."
The sentencing has been adjourned until 20 June.
Under UK law, the act of theft involves dishonestly taking property belonging to another person, with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it.
In this case, did the discarded food still belong to Tesco? And did Miss Hall know she was taking the food dishonestly? Join in the debate on the FindLaw Community page.
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