Sunday, February 10, 2008

Buy Buy Buy

Supermarkets and the market .

Retailers generate 1.6 million tonnes of food waste each year.

The energy expended in producing and transporting this wasted food is enormous. And discarded food ends up in landfill where it produces copious amounts of methane. Difficult as it may be to believe, the food waste of the developing world is a contributor to climate change. The food and supermarket industries need to reform their practices. They should cease using spurious "best before" dates that are designed to encourage people to waste edible food. They should also refrain from flooding their stores with "two-for-one" offers that encourage people to buy far more food than they actually need.

A separate study by Imperial College for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, found that supermarkets preferred to throw away food that was approaching its sell-by date rather than mark it down in price. "The cost of staff time is greater than the money made on the reduced items," the research found, citing a supermarket executive who said it cost the chain £11 million a year in labour and lost margins to slash prices.

The Government quango, The Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap), estimates that some 6.7 million tonnes of food ends up in British bins each year, despite the fact that half of it is perfectly edible. We are paying £8 billion a year for food that we do not eat. Most waste arose because people had "over-shopped" as a result of not planning; because they failed to keep their fridge cold enough, allowing food to go off; or because food had passed its "best by" date. Fresh fruit and vegetables top the list of most wasted food categories in the UK, outranking bread and bakery products, fresh meat, fish and dairy. For every three bags of food we take home, one will be discarded and end up as landfill. Over Christmas alone, around 230,000 tonnes of food worth about £275m that could have been eaten was thrown away.

Saving the energy needed to produce, package, transport and deliver this food would reduce the generation of carbon dioxide by 15 million tonnes a year – the equivalent of taking one in five cars off the road.


Use-by: This is the key date in terms of safety – never eat products after this date and observe storage instructions. Check if the food can be frozen if you need to eat it at a later date. "Use by" dates are usually found on chilled products such as cooked meats, soft cheeses and dairy-based desserts.

Best before: "Best before" dates are usually on longer shelf life foods such as frozen, tinned or dried goods, and refer to quality rather than safety. So it's best to use your judgment. It should be safe to eat food after the "best before" date, but food may no longer be at its best. Eggs are an exception, never eat them after the "best before" date.

Display until/Sell by: These often appear near or next to the "best before" or "use by" date. They are used by some shops to help with stock control and are instructions for shop staff, not shoppers.
Waste not , Want not .

No comments: