Food Waste

The beginning of November 2007 saw the launch of the “Love Food Hate Waste” campaign by the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP). The mission of the “Love Food Hate Waste”campaign is to get us, the people in general, to reduce the amount of food – which is rather horrendous – that we waste at home.

But, I would like to ask, what about the food, perfectly good food, that is being thrown away before it ever leaves the farm, often by other of the powers that be – and I am not talking about meat from animals with Foot & Mouth Disease (FMD), which is safe for human consumption (yes, folks, it is, and much of the beef that comes from Argentina in fact is full of the stuff) – to keep prices artificially inflated, especially in times of glut.

Some years ago apple growers in Kent were forced by the government to dump “overproduction” – maybe someone should have had a word with the trees to stop producing so many apples that year – didn't they known there is a quota? – in holes, huge holes, dug for that very purpose, on their farms. Those farmers were livid as there were not even allowed to give those perfectly good apples away free to people in need.

What was the reason for such an outrage of wanton destruction of perfectly good food?

Simply the fact that there was a glut of English apples – and what is the problems with that, I am sure, some readers may now ask – and the “Intervention Board”, as I believe it was called then, stepped in to keep the prices artificially up in the shops. The people who benefited from this action were not the farmers or the ordinary people, the consumers; the only ones who did were the middlemen, not even the retail traders. In addition to price fixing the “Board” intervened as a glut of English apples would have meant a reduction in the share of the market for apples from other European Union countries, such as France.

We also must here consider those fruits and vegetables that do not make it to the shelves of the stores and to our tables because the middlemen decide that the consumer does not like misshapen fruit and vegetables, or those with slight blemishes. The truth is that many consumers indeed do not want apples with slight natural blemished or misshapen carrots or the like. In addition to that there are those that never make it and get destroyed because the EU bureaucrats in Brussels, so we are being told, have deemed them not to be the right size or shape. It appear that only apples, pears, tomatoes, etc. of a certain size and shape are, according to those Eurocrats, proper and therefore only those sizes may be sold to the consumer. Come on, a pound (yes, I talk Imperial) of carrots is a pound of carrots whether they are huge (and then rarely have taste) or small and crooked.
Maybe someone needs to tell those that sit in ivory towers, whether in Brussels, Strasbourg or in Whitehall, that, unlike manufactured goods, fruit and vegetables do not come in uniform shapes and sizes and do not, generally, grow in a mold. Apples, pears, peppers, tomatoes, when left to grow naturally, are all different sizes and shapes, some large, some small, some with little blemishes, some not; that is Nature's way.

With waste like that we have to start as regards to reducing food waste before we have a go at we, the consumer.

While it is indeed true that too many of us waste about half of the food that we buy in the stores every week because we buy too much and it does not get eaten or leftovers are simply thrown into the garbage instead of using them the next day – waste no want not – in order to reduce the food waster per se the start must be made at the beginning of the chain. This may mean that the consumer will have to learn to accept, once again, misshapen fruit and veg, the way they naturally grow, and also the little blemishes that are there naturally and only are not generally found in the boxes at the food stores because they are removed by the packing houses and, more often than not, are being destroyed there.

We are seeing the return of blemished apples and other fruit and veg and those of different sizes and shapes like, for example, in the Basics range of produce at Sainsbury's.

Food for thought, I hope...

© Michael Smith (Veshengro), December 2007