Thursday, January 10, 2013

A wasteful world

A report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in Britain estimates that between 30 and 50 per cent of food produced around the globe, or 1.2 to two billion tonnes each year, never reaches a human mouth.

  • Vast quantities of produce from developing countries is lost due to poor storage or inefficient farming, while wasteful behaviour by consumers and supermarkets means half of all food bought in the west is thrown away.
  • As many as 30 per cent of UK vegetable crops are not even harvested because they do not meet retailers’ stringent demands on appearance, which are based on what customers will accept.
  • Supermarkets often reject entire crops of “perfectly edible” fruit and vegetables at farms because they have the wrong size or appearance, and are guilty of encouraging consumers to buy more than they can eat with promotions on perishable items, the report said.
  • Use-by dates can also cause more waste because retailers use conservative estimates to avoid the threat of legal action, thereby encouraging customers to throw perfectly good food away before it has gone bad, it was claimed.

Why it is the Institution of Mechanical Engineers  making this report is a mystery but nether-the-less there does seem to be a lot of truth in what they say.

In my younger days, fruit and vegetables were all sold loose so you bought what you needed. Today, much of this produce is pre-packed and you have to take the whole pack or nothing. Getting extra on a “BUY ONE GET ONE FREE” promotion only makes this situation worse.

For example, unlike most Spaniards, Pam and I only want one onion at a time but we end up having to buy three because that is the way the shop packages them. It is the same with peppers and many other vegetables. By the time we need another onion or a pepper, the spares have gone off and need to be thrown away.

I remember that market traders used to put the best looking produce at the front of the stall but then served you with the rubbish at the back. However, it really does not matter whether a carrot is perfectly straight or not, they are still edible and oranges that have blotches on the skin are just the same inside as the perfect ones. For goodness sake, these things are not meant to be works or art, they are food!

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