Food & Drink

Stopping food waste


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France becomes first country to ban food waste by supermarkets. French supermarkets have been prohibited from throwing away or intentionally spoiling unsold food under a new bill passed unanimously in February by the country’s senate. Supermarkets larger than 400 square metres will be required to donate the excess to charities and food banks, or face a fine of €3,750 ($4,125). The legislation also takes aim at food destruction, stopping shops from bleaching or securing excess food in locked dumpsters to keep it away from food foragers.

Another French law that came into effect in January targets food waste at restaurants by requiring retailers to offer takeaway containers to customers. Some 7.1 million tonnes of food waste is generated in France every year, according to the French government. Consumers generated 67 percent of this total, followed by restaurants at 15 percent and retail at 11 percent.

Other countries have had some success in reducing supermarket food waste through voluntary efforts, including the United Kingdom. A recent study by the British charity WRAP found the retail sector responsible for only 1.7 percent of food waste across the country, compared to France’s 11 percent figure. This has been ascribed, in part, to aggressive industry-led efforts to reduce food waste throughout the supply chain.

Globally, one-third of the food produced is wasted, costing the world economy about $750 billion, the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)’s report saidIt said Asian countries, especially India and China, were the worst culprits causing loss of 1.3 billion tonnes of food every year. This food wastage represents a missed opportunity to improve global food security, but also to mitigate environmental impacts and resources use from food chains.

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Food loss refers to a decrease in mass (dry matter) or nutritional value (quality) of food that was originally intended for human consumption. These losses are mainly caused by inefficiencies in the food supply chains, such as poor infrastructure and logistics, lack of technology, insufficient skills, knowledge and management capacity of supply chain actors, and lack of access to markets. In addition, natural disasters play a role.

Food waste refers to food appropriate for human consumption being discarded, whether or not after it is kept beyond its expiry date or left to spoil. Often this is because food has spoiled but it can be for other reasons such as oversupply due to markets, or individual consumer shopping/eating habits.

Food wastage refers to any food lost by deterioration or waste. Thus, the term “wastage” encompasses both food loss and food waste.

As per the CSR Journal, Indians waste as much food as the whole of United Kingdom consumes — a statistic that may not so much indicative of our love of surfeit, as it is of our population. Still, food wastage is an alarming issue in India. Our street and garbage bins, landfills have sufficient proof to prove it.

Weddings, canteens, hotels, social and family functions, households spew out so much food.  According to the United Nations Development Programme, up to 40 percent of the food produced in India is wasted. About 23 million tonnes of wheat are wasted in India and one-third of the food produced across the world meets the same fate and never reaches the needy. In fact, according to the India’s agriculture ministry, Rs. 50,000 crore ($7.5 billion) worth of food produced is wasted every year in the country.

We need to have similar legislations besides voluntary efforts to stop food waste in India. There are laudable efforts made by some great citizens in Bundelkhand, Coimbatore, and Aurangabad, where they are running Roti Banks. They serve food to needy every day after collecting the food items from various donors. There are similar efforts at some other places too, which need to be recognised and expanded. The people should be advised against food wastage.

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We need to get it into people’s minds to talk about food waste, that’s when little changes will take effect. Change doesn’t have to involve a huge elaborate campaign.

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