September 22, 2012 in Environment, Health, Nutrition

How Much Food Are You Wasting?

Part of the big picture of a Utopian future must include efficient use of resources. Efficient use of resources often is depicted as limiting our use of fossil fuels and preserving our forests. These are both important elements of efficiency, but they aren’t the whole picture.

Food waste is a huge problem in advanced countries. Here in Japan, consumer protection laws make it difficult for stores to sell produce and other perishable goods that have passed their “Best Before” dates, even when those foods are still quite viable for consumption. In our zest for mitigating risk to consumers, much of the food we could eat gets thrown away.

In fact, it goes beyond just the Best Before date. Much of the food we buy and sell must meet certain criteria for display. If a product is blemished, such as a blackened, rough surface on the skin of a tomato, the farmer won’t even take it to market. If a product is the wrong size, shape or colour for sale, it is simply disposed of, regardless of its fitness for human healthful consumption. It’s a tragic waste.

When I lived in Shizuoka with a friend some years ago, I remember hiking through some orchards only to come across a pile of “waste” fruit. It was a pile of at least 500 kg of mandarin oranges that was left to rot. I filled my backpack to the brim, hiking back home with some 15 kg of beautiful, firm and delicious oranges. In studying the pile, I couldn’t find any reason for these fruit to have been discarded. The fruit was, to my layman’s eyes, perfect. It was delicious. It was my first, but by no means my last, venture into freeganism.

Tristram Stuart recently gave an excellent talk on the subject of food waste. In an economy and environment that must understand how to feed a growing world population, food waste is an important topic to tackle. I encourage you all to take a few minutes to more deeply understand the issues involved.


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