A conference on the fight against food waste took place in Montpellier last week. It was the first ever regional conference aiming to reduce waste. The event bought together researchers and professionals whose aim was to look into every part of the production chain from the producer to the transporter to the consumer, and see how they could cut down on waste.
Waste at retail may be the most visible, but it is not actually the worst culprit. 32% of waste occurs during production; 21% during processing, and only 14% at retail. However, the problem does concern everyone as, if consumers would accept, for example, ugly fruit and vegetables, retailers would share this information with the producers who would stop throwing out their less than perfect produce.
To avoid wasting food consumers should make shopping lists, store food better, cook as a family (time spent preparing meals decreased by 25% between 1986-2010 and since 1960 there has been a +4.4% increase in ready-meals) and feel free to ask for a doggy bag when they go out. The idea of “expiry dates” was bought up at the conference and they discussed prolonging the dates on certain products that would not be a risk to consumers. Consumers also need to be aware of foods that can be consumed after their minimum storage date. Special offer stickers are also being developed for foods reaching their expiry date. Some supermarkets do special offers on their “ugly” fruit and vegetables which are perfectly edible. Some supermarkets have “anti-waste coaches” who advise them in taking the right actions to fight food waste.
The main action that can help to fight food wastage is giving food to associations, but there are logistical problems that need to be resolved. Efforts are being made to try and facilitate such operations as it can be difficult for shops that are in isolated areas, with no nearby associations or means of transport, to give away produce that would otherwise be wasted.
Some facts and figures:
Over 10 million tons of food is thrown out in France every year.
1.5 million tons is from institutional and commercial restaurants.
2.3 millions tons from retailers.
6.5 million tons from households.
When compared to the French population, that waste represents 149kg/person/year of which 17.9 kg/year is of food that is still edible.
Theoretically this represents €16 billion of waste and loss.
France has vowed to halve food wastage by 2025.