Monday, 7 July 2008

War on UK's food waste

I suppose that many of us will have one or more issues that we feel really passionate about. One such for me is the incredible amount of perfectly edible food that goes to waste in this country. I've been reading a few of the comments today on the BBC news website which have come in as a result of Gordon Brown's suggestion that we could all do more to cut down on what is actually an unbelievable amount of food that is wasted. Rather unfairly I think Brown is getting castigated in the majority of these remarks; because he is unpopular (understandably) with a large part of the populace shouldn't mean that he is berated regardless of what he says.

In my particular case living alone enables me to have virtually zero food waste. Yes OK if I was to have a lamb chop the bone would go in the bin, if I had smoked mackerel with my salad I would carefully remove the skin and put it an old bread wrapper say and then put out with the other small amount of domestic waste for the bin men. Vegetable peelings and the like go on to the compost heap. I'm lucky in as much as I enjoy eating almost anything although obviously I have my favourites (bring on the carrot cake!) and am not scared if something was to go just beyond a 'best before date' before I ate it. And not being rich I don't see a lot of point in purchasing food if it is likely to be binned.

What is confusing to a simple soul like me is how the figure of just over £400 per household per year in food wastage has been arrived at. And it was a month or three ago that we were told by somebody that a third of food in this country is never eaten. We just meekly accept these things without any explanation whatsoever and for someone such as myself with an analytical mind this is very frustrating. So apart from private households let's think about a few other places where perfect food is just not eaten. 'Out of date' products in supermarkets, leftovers in restaurants, staff canteens and the hospitality industry, perfectly edible fruit and veg from farmers that doesn't quite fit the criteria set down by the retailers are examples. Now inevitably but sadly some of this will go to waste, more so now after the government panicked following the 2001 foot and mouth crisis which led to the abolition of pig swill.

Much is being made of the 'buy one get one free' temptation (or BOGOF as it's known) that the supermarkets use. But not all of this is for short shelf life items such as that extra tub of coleslaw you might not get through. Clearly a sense of discipline, an awareness of dates and a picture of what you are likely to eat in the next few days is called for. Not always easy I know particularly if two partners are working full time and the kids are fussy about what they eat.

Going back to where I started this piece at least Gordon Brown has got the country talking about this and not before time I say. I would like to see more emphasis on teaching young people how to use cheap cuts of meat, how to make use of leftovers (I love Bubble 'n Squeak) and so forth. In a generation we seem to have lost the skills of parents and grandparents in making a little food go a long way, an art we need to bring back.

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