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Why food waste makes me worry about the future of the human race

PUBLISHED: 13:00 15 November 2015 | UPDATED: 14:40 15 November 2015

As much as half the world's food ends up being thrown away, say investigators.

As much as half the world's food ends up being thrown away, say investigators.

Archant

Maybe it’s a sign of increasing age but hardly a day goes by just lately that I don’t feel concerned for the future of the human race.

And it’s not just a fleeting feeling, one that takes hold of me when I’m forced to listen to the inane ramblings of any Radio One presenter, if I happen to catch sight of any Daily Mail headline, hear about the latest John Lewis Christmas advert or tune into Radio Two on a weekday lunchtime to find Vanessa Feltz standing in for Jeremy Vine.

No, it’s more serious than that.

Try as I might, I find it increasingly hard to resist the thought that we live in such a crazy, illogical and self-destructive way that our species’ days surely must be numbered.

Let me give you an example that illustrates what I’m talking about: food waste.

A couple of weeks ago I highlighted concerns about the world’s ability to produce enough food for it’s growing population in the coming decades. Faced with such looming problems, you’d hope we might think a little more carefully about how we use what we already have.

It seems not. I’ve written about food waste before. I’ve wrestled with the problems of the supermarket BOGOF and what to do with ‘leftovers’. But my mind has been concentrated on the problem anew this week by chef and food campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, whose new BBC series, Hugh’s War on Waste, tackles the subject.

In the first episode we saw Hugh taking food from people’s supermarket trolleys and throwing it into a wheelie bin to highlight the fact that the average household bins £700 of food a year. He also went undercover as a bin man, challenging residents about the things they throw out and offering them tips to help save food and money.

Worse was to come when he headed to a parsnip farm in Norfolk and found that due to supermarkets’ strict cosmetic standards, huge amounts of veg - between 30 and 40% of the crop - were being wasted.

All this is bad enough but when you consider we’re living in a country where poverty has left a million people dependent on food banks it takes it to another level. The situation is made even more absurd by the fact that most supermarkets have collection points for people to donate items to those food banks - while at the same time those supermarkets and their customers are throwing away huge amounts of produce themselves.

Surely the species that put a man on the moon should be able to organise the production, distribution and consumption of its food in a less wasteful manner. It’s not, to coin a phrase, rocket science.

■ Email sheena.grant@eadt.co.uk, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or tweet using #ThriftyLiving.

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