Monday, October 8, 2012

Wasted Food: Can We Defeat "Plastic Fruit Syndrome"?

Last year I wrote a post, "Wasted Food: Another Mountain to Climb," that discussed the staggering problem of wasted food. According to Jonathan Bloom, the author of “American Wasteland,” "Americans waste more than 40 percent of the food we produce for consumption. That comes at an annual cost of more than $100 billion.”

Much of this wasted food is discarded by supermarkets or left to rot on the farm, even though it is completely edible. The issue? Fruits and vegetables that don't look like Miss America. I see it all the time (and am guilty of it myself on occasion): the majority of shoppers will not buy a zucchini or an apple because of a little nick here or a small blemish there.

On topic, I saw this article last week, courtesy of Australian Food News. Hopefully it signals a change in attitude:

"UK supermarket chain, Sainsbury’s, has announced a radical change in the marketing of fruit and vegetables, vowing to promote ‘the ugly ones.’ The announcement comes as recent unpredictable weather has affected UK crops, increasing scarring and blemishes on fresh produce.
"For many years, consumer advocacy groups and environmentalists have criticised the obsession of supermarket buying agents around the world to exclude the less-than perfect fruit and vegetables – the so called ‘plastic fruit syndrome.’ The lower quality has been a price bargaining point for supermarkets to play off one supplier from another.

"As well as limited supply of fresh produce in the UK this season, supermarkets around the world have been attempting to tackle wastage of fresh produce. The ‘avoidance of waste’ is attracting strong consumer support following research in the United States. The US research revealed that about 40 percent of the food produced there is wasted, with an estimated loss of $15 Billion a year by supermarkets.

"The August 2012 report by the National Resources Defense Council (US) revealed that abount 19.5 Billion Kilograms of food is thrown away by grocery stores each year in the US.

"To combat waste in the UK, Sainsbury’s is determined to make use of any fruit and vegetables that meets regulations and taste standards, and have been encouraging their consumers to do the same.

"Sainsbury’s spokesperson, Judith Batchelar said that Sainsbury’s would be using the less attractive produce in all of their freshly prepared meals and bakery products.

"Ms Batchelar said that she hoped consumers would make the most of British crops and help reduce waste, despite of the sometimes unusual appearances the fruit and vegetables might have.

"Similarly, US supermarket chain Stop and Shop has implemented strategies to reduce fresh produce waste. Stop and Shop proved that waste was not just a part of the business, saving $100 Million dollars annually by implementing some changes in their 550 US stores.

"Former CEO of Stop and Shop, Jose Alvarez, said that they significantly altered perishable display areas to showcase only a small amount of product, reducing the amount of waste."

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