We waste 33% of the world’s food. What’s the solution?

Posted by Julian hearn on

There are approximately 7 billion people living on planet earth. Of those, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (UNFAO) estimates that a staggering 870 million of them, that is one in eight, are starving, suffering from chronic undernourishment.

You’d think with statistics like those, that there’s simply not enough food on the planet to feed everyone. However, this is far from the truth. The world produces easily enough food to feed everyone. This disparity is down to a variety of reasons, and one of the major ones is waste.

Did you know that 33% of ALL food is wasted? (Source: UNFAO)

It’s unbelievable isn't it? We produce more that enough food for everyone on the plant, but we throw away 33% of it. There are numerous reasons for this:

‘Perfect food’ - Supermarkets want ‘perfect’ fruit and vegetables. In today’s competitive business environment, supermarkets want to be seen selling the freshest, most attractive looking fruit and vegetables available. Those examples that are seen as too big, too small, the wrong shape or the wrong colour are simply thrown away, despite being perfectly edible.

Bulk buying - Lots of us buy too much fresh food, simply because we don’t like the idea of ‘running out’. More often than not, much of this is wasted and simply thrown away.

Supermarket deals - Most people like a bargain, and deals such as buy one get one free are popular with customers. However, it’s forcing many people to take two items home rather than just the one they wanted, and often the extra item will go uneaten and will be thrown away.

Use by/best before dates - In the old days, people used to use their senses of smell, sight, taste and touch to check whether a piece of food was still edible. Nowadays, most people rely on best before and use by dates, often throwing away perfectly edible food.

Is fresh really best? - Historically we've always been told that fresh is best, and this idea is sold to us by supermarkets and the media with images of overflowing fridges full of he finest looking fruit and vegetables. However, after a number of extensive scientific studies, we now know that a fruit or vegetable’s nutritional profile begins to decline as soon as it is picked, and continues to do so until eaten. This is especially relevant in view of the fact much of our fruit and vegetables are grown abroad. Food frozen at source however retains its nutritional profile, and thus is much more nutritious when eaten.

What is the solution?

There is no one solution, but some of the things that might help include:

Changing attitudes - Attitudes, both of supermarkets and the public in general need to change about the appearance of food. Not insisting on ‘perfect’ looking food would see a big reduction of food being wasted. Whether this could be done at the supermarkets without legislation is debatable, with so much focus on food being ‘fresh’ and and unblemished.

Changing supermarket advertising - Supermarkets ultimately want to sell more items. The more they sell, the more money they make, and what happens to these items once they leave their store isn't really their concern. By limiting buy one get one free offers, a great deal of wasted food could be avoided.

Remove best before and use by dates - People should learn to trust their own senses when judging whether a food is not safe to eat. Of course, with things like meat and eggs, it’s probably sensible to have some sort of guide, but with fruit and veg, if it smells OK, feels OK, looks OK and tastes OK it’s absolutely fine to eat. Fear is causing far too much food to be thrown away, and it needs to stop. As well helping waste, consumers will save a lot of money over a year.

People should store food better - With most of us having a freezer at home, most of us don’t make full use out of it. For example if a weeks worth of meat is bought, it should mostly be placed in the freezer. Refrigerating it is OK, but often it can get forgotten about and goes off by the time people get round to eating it. Consumers can help reduce food waste and save a lot of money by looking for supermarket reductions. The big supermarkets reduce fresh food gradually to over 90% off to sell it off when it’s reached it’s best before date. Eat that day or if it’s meat or fish, freeze it.

Using leftovers - When people do cook for themselves, often the leftovers are simply be thrown away. 50 years ago, this wouldn't have been the case, as people back then knew the real value of food and would utilise everything to avoid wasting food. Historically, many now famous dishes originated in this way, including Lancashire Hot Pot and the Indian curry Jalfrezi.

Ultimately, society as a whole needs to start thinking about food in a different way. This is what we did when developing Huel. Think of everything you eat every day, everything you throw away, and how much packaging it all comes in, and then compare it to Huel, a simple nutritious powder that provides you with everything you need.. Makes you think doesn't it?

Further reading:

Short video: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-28140395

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