....... Divertimento: Wasted food

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Wasted food

After writing about spoiled bananas yesterday, I started thinking about food wastage in general. In May, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation released a study which estimates that a staggering one third of the world’s food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted each year. Roughly 1.3bn tonnes of food is either lost or wasted globally due to inefficiencies throughout the food supply chain, says the report. Industrialised and developing countries waste or lose roughly the same amount of food each year – 670m and 630m tonnes respectively. But while rich countries waste food primarily at the level of the consumer, the main issue for developing countries is food lost due to weak infrastructure – including poor storage, processing and packaging facilities that lack the capacity to keep produce fresh.

For example, in India, 40% of fruits and vegetables rot before reaching the market because of poor roads.

A survey in Hong Kong by environmental group Friends of the Earth found that a wedding banquet that served 27 tables of guests produced 105 kg of food waste, with some left over and some not having been touched at all.

‘‘This food could have fed more than 200 children,’’ said Michelle Au, the group’s environment officer, who campaigned for ordering less food at banquets. ‘‘Cut two dishes, take away the leftovers in doggy bags, or better, bring a reusable container for the leftovers.’‘ But thanks to changing mindsets and rising food prices, some of those who like to throw banquets with ostentatious dishes are starting to think twice, according to restaurateur Simon Wong.

Here’s more food for thought: One billion people (more than the combined population of US, Canada and the EU) around the world are undernourished; hunger is the single gravest threat to health. Hunger kills more people each year than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. Six million children die of hunger every year - 17,000 every day or one every 5 seconds!(UN World Food Programme statistics).

In Hong Kong, another problem of food wastage is the growing problem of garbage disposal. According to the Environmental Protection Department statistics for 2009, people in Hong Kong generate about 3,280 tonnes of food waste a day which translates to about 0.5 kg each which is more than people in Singapore, Korea and Taiwan. We would all be used to regular reports about the dire state of our landfill sites and the need for waste reduction and additional capacity. More about this later.

In the meantime – do not waste food; buy only what we really need.

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