Saturday, January 17, 2015

Food wastes-Bakery foods most wasted!

Why do people throw away perfectly safe and good quality food without consuming them? Probably a high degree of insensitivity to the sufferings of millions of fellow denizens who have no or little access to food due to economic compulsions. If some of the reports are to be believed the total quantum of food wasted across the world can feed almost 2 billion people, almost 30% of current world population! It is difficult to believe this figure though there is no independent data to confirm or challenge these staggering estimates. In a country like the UK, it is believed that about 24 million slices of bread are thrown way though they were of acceptable eating quality. Across Europe one estimate puts the quantity of food waste at about 90 million tons! Interestingly it appears bakery products top the list of food items wasted followed by pastry items like cakes. Here is a take on this perplexing issue: 

"Bread, biscuits and cakes rank high on the list of food wasted, so to what extent can bakery manufacturers drive environmental progress and help reduce food wastage? Paul Featherstone, group director of food recycler, SugaRich, investigated for Biscuit World. In April 2014, the House of Lords EU Committee revealed startling findings from their 'Counting the Cost of Food Waste: EU Food Waste Prevention' report1. At least 90 million tones of food is said to be wasted across the EU every year.  According to a report into UK food waste published in November 2013 by the Waste Resource Action Plan (WRAP)2, bread tops the list of food thrown away uneaten with the equivalent of a staggering 24 million slices of bread wasted daily,whilst sweet treats like cakes rank high on the list too. Legislative pressures and environmental targets have gone some way to encourage progress. The EU's pledge to halve edible food waste by 2020 is an ever-pressing driver, as is the media's continued scrutiny over unsustainable surplus food practices. Commercial factors have also had a distinct part to play because, whilst some organizations want to demonstrate stronger 'green' credentials to enhance their reputation and uphold their corporate social responsibility, others simply cannot afford the ever-rising charges associated with traditional landfill disposal or anaerobic digestion" 

There could be a logic in this situation where bread and cakes are wasted comparatively in larger quantities compared to others and the reason is that they are high moisture products vulnerable to spoilage, chemical, microbiological and organoleptically. Stale bread may be safe to eat but most people cannot accept it because of undesirable textural changes and reduction of flavor associated with fresh bread. So it is with cakes also. A logical question that follows is how to cut down on this colossal waste and whose responsibility it is to do that? Bakery industry probably will have to innovate further to prevent quality changes perceptible to the consumer so that they are not discarded on this account. On the part of the consumer there must be conscious attempt to buy just enough quantities for home consumption without resorting to storing them for long considering the susceptibility of bread to staling. Another point consumer has to remember is that staling phenomenon due to starch retrogradation is reversible by heat and naturally during toasting bread will regain its quality almost completely. Refrigeration must be resorted to if bread is to be stored for more than 2-3 days to prevent fungal spoilage. There is thus considerable scope to bring down wastage vis-a-vis bakery products if adequate care is taken by the industry as well as the consumer.


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