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

13:00 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.


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, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or tweet using #ThriftyLiving.


  • As always the focus on food waste is on pictures of vegetables and the like being tipped out and parsnips the wrong shape and so on. What does actually happen to these parsnips surely they are fed to animals so are not actually wasted.Hugh F W loves to grab a headline after all he makes tv programmes, look at the silly programmes about fish,if he was really that concerned he would be highlighting the meat waste well not the actual meat but the resources that go into producing it. To quote the economist "Chickens and pigs convert grain into meat at rates of two or three to one (ie, it takes 2kg of feed to produce 1kg of chicken). The ratio for lamb is between four and over six to one and that for beef starts at five to one and goes as high as 20 to one. This has long been known. What is new are the amounts of greenhouse gases associated with the production of a kilo of protein by different animals. These vary even more widely: 3.7kg for chicken; 24kg for pork; and up to 1,000kg for cattle. The lower, more efficient ratios for chicken and pigs come about because they are kept in hated factory farms. Factory farming is good for the planet, if not for the animals." Not good publicity to highlight these facts for TV chefs.

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    Friday, November 20, 2015

  • Do grow up please. You do not know what you are talking about. Efficiency in food production is increasing all the time, we won't starve!. Malthus was wrong! Science has put his concerns to bed. There is no need for sensible people to worry about the future of the human race, well most of them in fact, There are a few of us who give cause for concern(nudge nudge) Sure it's bad that food is wasted and some can't afford it but that's a different issue. So, Don't Panic!

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    Monday, November 16, 2015

  • Food waste is a lose-lose situation for the environment, the struggling families in today’s tough economy and for the food retailers. Fortunately, there are new ways to reduce fresh food waste. The new open GS1 DataBar barcode standard enables new food waste reduction applications that allow automatic progressive purchasing incentives for fresh perishables approaching their expiration dates. These applications also eliminate labor-intensive manual relocation and promotional labeling of the promoted perishable lots. An example of such an application is the “End Grocery Waste” App. This GS1 DataBar based application encourages efficient consumer shopping behavior that makes fresh food affordable for all families, maximizes grocery retailer revenue, and effectively reduces the global carbon footprint.

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    Rod Averbuch

    Sunday, November 15, 2015

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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