30 September 2012

Uncovering the Global Food Scandal

by Tristram Stuart

Consumers: Stop wasting food.

By throwing away food you are paying for: the wanton degradation of the environment, the starvation of people on the other side of the world, pollution in your local landfill site,unnecessary global warming, water depletion, soil erosion, habitat destruction and deforestation. Completely eliminating food waste in your home is achievable. it would be easy for everyone to cu waste down to well below 10 per cent, today.

The process starts even before you get to the shops: write a shopping list while still at home so you can check exactly what you still have in the fridge or cupboard. Think about what meals are likely to be eaten. in the shop, avoid being seduced by marketing devices to make you buy things you aren’t going to consume.

When cooking, measure food portions to avoid preparing more than desired. Use up leftovers.. Take them into work for lunch the next day rather than buying a sandwich. Re-heat or convert into new dishes the next day and save yourself the bother of cooking from scratch. Leftover meat, fish and vegetables make good soups, stews, curries or sandwiches. Buy the size of bread loaf the household will get through before it goes stale. Freeze surplus bread, or dry it out and turn it into breadcrumbs. Eat your crusts! They are at least 10 per cent of a loaf, so throwing them away is equivalent to throwing away 10 per cent of the arable land used to grow them. If you don’t like crusts, don’t eat bread. Potatoes, carrots, parsnips and other vegetables rarely need peeling, whether as chips, mash, roast, fried or boiled.

Treat best-before dates with extreme scepticism – they aren’t telling you the food is harmful after that date: if it looks and smells fine – eat it! Use-by dates are generally calculated with wide margins of error; don’t risk food poisoning, but do ensure that anything such as raw meat you decide to eat after its use-by date has been properly refrigerated and thoroughly cooked. Sell-by dates: ignore them entirely, they’re irrelevant.

If you think you don’t have a food waste problem, try measuring over the period of a month or so exactly how much food you throw away, and then improve on it.

Eat more offal and less meat; eat fish from well-managed stocks and avoid eating species threatened by over-fishing and the problem of discards Buy knobbly fruit and vegetables wherever you can, for example directly from farmers. This maximizes the efficiency of agricultural production; it can be cheaper; and there’s a good chance that they will contain lower levels of pesticide residues and other toxic agri-chemicals.

Home composting, wormeries or separate organic bins for municipal collection are better than throwing biodegradable waste like orange peels, carrot tops, tea bags etc. in the general rubbish bin. BUT, it is not virtuous to throw food – whole lemons, bananas or whatever – into a compost bin. The value of the compost is a tiny fraction of the resources that went into growing the food and getting it into your home.

Parents: Children learn how to treat food from the earliest ages. Try to encourage children to finish the meals they have been served. Kids are very open to being told about where their food comes from – tell them stories about the land and the people that grow their food and it will help them to appreciate its value.

Governments: Initiate well-managed public awareness campaigns to change public behaviour WRAP’s ‘Love Food Hate Waste’ campaign and the wartime efforts in Europe and America are examples. Money spent is recompensed by saving resources, reducing the costs of waste management, increasing efficiency and enhancing national food security.

Impose mandatory food waste reduction targets on food companies: a starting point would be a 50 per cent reduction in five years with the eventual aim of eliminating all possible food waste (not including inedible food by-products). Alternatively, impose the waste reduction target on the governments, so they are obliged to introduce policies that will bring about that reduction. Where appropriate, provide assistance in improving efficiency through research, advice and infrastructure.

Introduce a tax on wasting edible food regardless of disposal method, to be imposed on food companies. This would create a fiscal incentive to prioritize giving surplus food to redistribution charities rather than other disposal methods.

Food companies should be made to report their waste arisings, specifying how much of it is food.

Avoid farm subsidies based on output which encourage the production of surplus food. American farm subsidies currently do this, as do EU export subsidies to a lesser extent.

Fund research and development in food technology to extract maximum value from food by-products and co-products.

When intervening in food waste management, governments should be very careful to avoid disrupting the natural waste hierarchy of reduction first, then redistribution, then livestock feeding, and only after these have been exhausted, promoting alternatives to landfill. Britain, as a bad example, has offered fiscal assistance for composting and anaerobic digestion and has not offered similar help to food redistributors or livestock farmers.

Ban sending food waste to landfill and take measures to ensure that adequate alternative disposal methods are developed.

Lift the ban on feeding swill (in the EU and some US states) to pigs. Instead, feeding swill should be encouraged or madeĀ  mandatory. Start with commercial and industrial food waste and then follow the example of South Korea and wartime Europe by collecting household and catering food waste, instigating an effective awareness campaign to ensure people do not contaminate it with unsuitable material. Ensure the swill is properly heat-treated.

If Europe does not trust its farmers to treat food waste properly then it could at least allow commercial feed factories to do so. Larger industrial outfits can easily be regulated and checked to ensure they are complying with the law. If governments still feel unsafe, they could allow food waste to go only to designated farms where contact with other livestock is restricted, or eliminated altogether by having a slaughtering facility on site

Failing an end to the ban, instigate a nationwide scheme covering all commercial and industrial food companies whereby permitted former foodstuffs, such as bread, pastry, fruit, vegetables and dairy products, are segregated from banned meat products and collected for livestock feed.

To address the current anti-competitive fiscal bias in favour of sending former foodstuffs for anaerobic digestion rather than livestock feed, a scheme could be devised that remunerates farmers for the far higher carbon savings of feeding it to their animals. Under Kyoto’s Clean Development Mechanism, swill-feeding projects in developing nations could be approved, so farmers could receive 1830 Euros per tonne of saved carbon dioxide emissions (though this should rise in the future). Carbon-saving agricultural projects within Europe are technically permitted under the Joint Implementation system; but owing to administrative hitches, not one scheme has yet been approved. Facilitating this would make it more profitable for pig farmers or feed manufacturers to collect food waste. Direct government funding of such projects would also help: Japan, for example, pays pig farmers one third of the costs of installing feeding systems to take food waste.

Supermarkets: Stop throwing away food, except in extraordinary circumstances. Adopt this target voluntarily, and if not then submit to regulation .Give away ay surplus food that cannot be sold. Any further permissible waste should be segregated under a local-authority-approved plan, backhauled to central depots and given to livestock farmers or feed manufacturers.

Remunerate managers on the basis of the accuracy of their ordering in order to avoid waste.

Submit to an enforced code of practice (as proposed in Britain) to protect suppliers (both manufacturers and farmers) from unfair practices such as volatile last-minute order changes, take-back clauses, dumping the cost of surplus on suppliers, exclusivity clauses or anything that prevents suppliers from selling surplus to other willing buyers or donating it charitably.

Reform use of best-before dates on fruit, vegetables and bread and inform the public on the meaning of the dating system.

Manufacturers and processors: Any of the waste problems in the supply chain would be alleviated by tackling the above problems with the supermarkets. Dramatic improvements can also be achieved through adopting best practice, already adopted by many companies and yet to be extended to others. Wherever possible, consider lengthening the shelf-life of products.

Canteens: Unnecessary waste is currently caused by the expectation that each person likely to dine must have a choice of dishes, so each dish has to be made in excess. Without reducing people’s choice, canteens in schools, hospitals and other institutions could reduce this waste by asking or requiring diners to choose a day or two in advance. No choice is lost, just the expectation that the choice should be made spontaneously Some restaurants already take orders in advance: for example, the exclusive restaurant Mildmay Hall, at the Glyndebourne opera house.

Full-service restaurants: Everyone has a different appetite and serving sizes could be adjusted accordingly. Make standard dishes smaller and offer to ‘supersize’ for free. Some restaurants have found that customers respond well to being told that a surcharge will be added to the bill for food left over on plates, especially if the reasons are explained and proceeds are given to charity: particularly useful for those restaurants offering ‘all you can eat’ deals. The best-run restaurants already use up leftover ingredients. Inventive chefs can turn odds and endsĀ  into complimentary appetizers. Discounts for ordering meals in advance can also be offered, as for canteens above.

Fast-food restaurants, convenience stores, sandwich vendors: Much of the food wasted in this sector arises from the need to keep food ready, prepared and immediately available at all times. For this reason, accurate forecasting of demand is essential in reducing losses. However, these stores – many of them comparatively small outlets – suffer from poor stock management by untrained branch managers. Much of this can be dealt with by training staff adequately, keeping them in the job by giving decent employment terms and fostering best business practices to avoid waste. Any surplus at the end of the day should, wherever possible, be given away or donated to redistribution charities, if necessary at a charge to the company.

Fishing: It is up to governments and fishing industries to agree sustainable fisheries policies. Discards should be banned; human markets found for edible but currently unwanted fish; extensive marine reserves established and no-catch rules enforced within their boundaries; and modern fishing equipment and techniques that avoid by-catch made mandatory.

Farmers: Wherever practical sell direct to consumers: it can increase profits significantly and can cut the amount that is graded out of harvests by 30-90 per cent. In the UK, work with unions and the government to achieve the proposed outlawing of the supermarkets’ unfair practices that cause unwanted crops to be disposed fo; outside the UK, press governments for similar regulation. If no market can be found for surplus or rejects, consider letting in gleaners, whether individuals or established organizations.

Month 10 Day 2

30 September 2012


82 Days to Dec 21st 2012

Month 10 Day 1

29 September 2012

83 Days to Dec 21st 2012

Waste not…

28 September 2012

…feed the world.

Previous post: How did all this stuff get here. (incl. link to The Story of Stuff)

I’ve just started reading Waste by Tristram Stuart, in which he documents his investigation (chiefly in the UK, but relevant for North America as well) into the waste of food. It makes the claims that GMOs are necessary to feed the world moot, as with a more efficient food chain, we can already feed the entire world and then some. Considering our global food chain is global, there is no excuse not to (but boy do people come up with some creative attempts).

Tristram Stuart’s Waste web site

Month 10 Day 0

28 September 2012


84 Days to Dec 21st 2012

Year 12~XIV Month 10

28 September 2012


Reading List Year 12~XIV Month 9

28 September 2012

Reading List:

the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
the Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
the Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton
the Veil by El Torres & Gabriel Hernandez
the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Century: 2009 by Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill
Dora: A Headcase by Lidia Yuknavitch
Liminal States by Zack Parsons
Zazen by Vanessa Veselka