Food waste: it’s enough to make you feel sick

fresh fruit - smoove

Each year we lose or waste about 1.3 billion tonnes of food. If you dare, think about the hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths from starvation or malnutrition that represents.

Of course, those of us who enjoy privileged lives in wealthy countries do not have to confront the ghastly reality of starvation which might make us change our ways.

The apparent superabundance that is the consequence of our addiction to crass consumerism sees us turn up our noses at fruit in a greengrocer’s that might have a slight blemish. If it is not perfection, it is not for us, right? Worse is the arrogance that whispers in our ear: “Why should you take that apple with the little black mark? Leave it for the next sucker.” We’re really not nice people, are we?

Then there’s the fetish with Use By dates. The neurotic zealots – mostly bureaucrats it must be admitted – who try to protect us from all possible harm are NEVER going to impose a Use By date that teeters on the brink of the contents actually being inedible, are they? Not that lot. So, we know that there is a healthy margin beyond the Use BY date in which it can safely be eaten. But how often do we simply discard it ‘just to be on the safe side’?

And what of overly-generous portion sizes? Americans are certainly not the only ones guilty of this but I must confess to being amazed by the stupendous servings so often dished-up there in restaurants especially.

There is also the waste generated by fast food chains such as McDonald’s in which French fries are discarded after seven minutes and burgers after twenty. Anyone for dumpster-diving? The estimate is that some ten per cent of all fast food is discarded after being cooked.

Australian polymath, Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, who is a leading exponent of the views expressed here estimates that the rich nations of Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA waste around 5 per cent of our fruit and vegetables, 50 per cent of our seafood, 38 per cent of our grain products, 22 per cent of our meat and 20 per cent of our milk.

In the US, wasted food makes up the single largest component of landfills. That creates huge clouds of methane gas but best practice dumps these days capture that and burn it to generate electricity. Even so, such a massive volume of unnecessary waste ought to give us all pause for thought.

And Australia is no better with our food waste filling an estimated 450,000 garbage trucks a year. Think of that in context of a population of just 22 million: nearly one garbage truck of food waste for every 44 people. Shocking.

So, let’s think before we eat unwisely or toss aside unnecessarily.

And I confess I am as guilty of all these sins as anyone else.

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