Left-over food, outer leaf of a cabbage, squishy vegetables, rancid fries……. you may not give it too much of thought, after all it is not everyday that you discard food, but then by oversight you missed that pack tucked away in the vegetable tray. You went out for dinner last night and what do you do with that little food from the previous meal. Many other plausible reasons. All valid. Or so you think. But just consider some thousands of families doing the same, and the food that is collectively going waste. That really is food for thought.
Tristam Stuart is a freegan - living off food thrown in the trash can, and not because he cannot afford it, but to prove to the world that food fit for consumption is being thrown away in UK. He is used to dining well from the food that supermarkets throw out. And the food he salvages is not dirty and inedible. Each year 484 million unopened yoghurts;1.6 billion untouched apples; bananas worth £370 million; 2.6 billion slices of bread are junked.
Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal , he brings all this to light . He is appalled at the food going waste.
Consider these startling facts:
Supermarkets in the UK chuck out 1.6 million tonnes of food a year due to overstocking. They don’t see gaps in shelves as good business so often order more than they need.
Marks and Spencer requires its sandwich suppliers to get rid of the crusts and the first slices at each end of each loaf that they use. These four slices from each loaf amounts to one factory throwing out 13000 slices of fresh bread everyday.
A farmer supplying spinach to a supermarket had to waste a whole crop because blades of grass were found between the growing spinach.
Asda, the British supermarket chain owned by WalMart wastes 20-30% of carrots because they’re not perfectly straight. A British wholesaler had to throw away 5000 kiwi fruit away because they were each 4g below the EU minimum of 62g. last year.
The European Union’s bizarre legislation on the cosmetic quality of fruit and vegetables sold throughout the EU compounds the problem. For instance Class I cucumbers must "be reasonably well shaped and practically straight " - with measurements specified in most cases. Some of these laws were changed in November this year, but there are still 26 categories, including apples, strawberries, pears and kiwi fruit where this legislation still applies.
All fresh produce has a sell by date and anything close to that is dumped by major supermarkets.The sell by food label has nothing to do with food safety. So,effectively the food is not spoilt. This food goes into landfills so that gases like methane are not released into the environment! In places like Korea and Taiwan such food goes as pig feed, while in Europe, the pigs are fed with expensive feed that the farmer in such hardtimes can ill afford!
The FAO predicts that the number of people (especially in developing countries ) without enough to eat will exceed 1 billion in 2009. In India – millions of tonnes of vegetables are lost annually due to a poor supply chain apart from other reasons that are not likely to be under our control.
We can do our bit to control the food that we throw away. Over-ripe fruits and vegetables can be converted into smoothies, pies, desserts, soups and even ice creams. Left over rice can be deliciously turned into a nicely seasoned product. As long as the food is edible and without compromising on food safety, there can always be way to convert the product into something edible.
I have always admired the lovely looking fruits and vegetables that one finds stocked in super markets abroad. But now, I think I know better.