Food Waste, People Hungry

Food Waste, People Hungry

Food Safety and
Management System

Thursday, December 03, 2020

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Do you eat “ugly” foods or do they have to be aesthetically pleasing? What about bruised fruits and vegetables? What do you do with your leftovers? Your answers to these questions set the stage for a discussion on food waste. Look around your home; in a given day or week how much food is wasted?

Food waste is a growing concern because it keeps increasing; interestingly, the number of people who are hungry is also increasing. What an interesting paradigm; more food is being wasted yet more people are going hungry. Let us be clear, in discussing food waste we are speaking about edible food that is discarded. That is, food that is good for consumption but is thrown out due to expiry date, spoilage or other reasons. This is seen from the farm level to manufacturing, processing, shipping, distribution and at consumer level. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of food waste is composted to create a value-added product.

The magnitude of the growing food waste problem has led the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations to designate September 29th as International Day of Awareness on Food Loss and Waste Reduction. To put this problem in perspective, we must look at the statistics from the FAO. It is estimated that globally, 14% of food produced is lost between harvest and point of sale. While a figure is not given, it is noted that a large percentage of food is wasted between point of sale and consumption. With regard to fruits and vegetables, it is estimated that more than 20% contributes to loss. Additionally, a daunting figure comes from the United States of America, where the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that food waste is 30-40% of its food supply.

There is also the issue of “invisible” food loss or waste. Invisible food waste is categorised as food that is lost during manufacturing and processing. This is why it is particularly important to have a food safety management system in place. This helps to prevent loss that may occur due to equipment breakdown, formulation error, rework, damage by pest or spoilage from bacteria, yeast and mould. Outside of such a system, conscious thought must be given to mitigate or prevent the problem.

Restaurants or caterers may have leftover food that's thrown out. Instead, this food can be donated to charity organisations or persons in need. Of course, this food would have to be handled and stored in the correct manner to ensure food safety. The use of such measures would help to feed the hungry instead of adding to the landfill.

At an individual level, consumers can also help to prevent food waste. Sometimes our eyes are bigger than our stomachs, it is better to take a small portion first, then return for a second, if still hungry. When purchasing perishable food, buy only what is needed by way of meal planning. Purchasing more fruits and vegetables than can be reasonably consumed in a period of time will lead to spoilage and waste.

Here are 10 tips by the FAO to stop the problem:

1. Adopt a healthier, more sustainable diet

2. Buy only what you need

3. Pick ugly fruits and vegetables

4. Store food wisely

5. Understand food labelling

6. Start small

7. Love your leftovers

8. Put your food waste to use

9. Respect your food

10. Support local food producers

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