Sunday, December 13, 2015

Preventing food wastage-The new French initiative

Food waste is a hot subject that commands a big audience across the world. Obviously wasting any food is considered obnoxious by any one with a common sense or a clean conscience but unfortunately it is precisely these are what one finds lacking in rich countries like USA, Canada, Japan and countries in Europe. Otherwise it is difficult to explain why an average French citizen throws away foods per year sufficient to feed about 100 people and Australians leading the pack with foods wasted capable of feeding 200 people. One of the reasons cited for squandering so much foods is the mandatory declaration of expiry date in all food packs and most people throw the food away after that date believing that they are unsafe to consume. There is greater awareness now that all date expired foods need not be unsafe and consumers can save significantly in their food budget by judicially using such foods. However those who are well to do with high income may not mind suffering economic loss by throwing away date expired food products not wanting to take any risk to them. It is against such a situation that we have to appreciate the lead taken by France to make wasting food unlawful through enactment of mandatory policies. Here is a take on this exciting development which can be a role model for other countries convinced about the unconscionable practice of wasting precious foods.     

"With that in mind, the National Assembly of France (the lower house)recently passed a bill making it illegal for large supermarkets to simply throw away food. The new laws mean that any medium or large supermarket – determined as being 400 square metres or larger – must turn over any edible food to charity. As for food which is no longer edible, it cannot simply be thrown away either, instead it must be turned into compost or biofuel. The former Minister for Food, Guillaume Garot, was quoted in French newspaper L'Express saying, "It's scandalous to see bleach being poured into supermarket dustbins along with edible foods." The law is part of a French plan to cut food wastage in half by 2025. The plan was implemented in 2012, after studies showed the average French person wastes an average of 20 to 30 kilograms of food per year, which translates to between 12 and 20 billion euros ending up in the bin. But don't go feeling smug about how wasteful the Frogs are – Australians are worse! According to FoodWise, Australians waste a staggering $8 billion worth of food every year – 345 kilos per household! And while it's, as Garot said, "scandalous" to think of all that food going to waste when the UN estimates there are 805 million people in the world who are undernourished, there are also environmental factors at play. As food rots in landfill it lets off methane, which Food Wise say "is 25 times more potent than the carbon pollution that comes out of your car exhaust". The French National Assembly passed the bill unanimously – that's 577 politicians representing seven different political parties who all agreed that waste needs to end. Getting almost 600 people to agree on anything is virtually impossible, making the passing of this law all the more impressive. And kind of obvious. Seriously, if almost 600 French politicians can agree that waste is abhorrent, the men and women in Canberra should take note. Indeed, Arash Derambarsh, a councillor from the north-west of Paris who was the lead person who persuaded French MPs to adopt the regulation, is looking to go global. The French MP is planning to table the issue via Bono's campaign group ONE to the UN in September, as well as at the G20 economic summit in Turkey in November, and the COP21 environment conference in Paris in December."

While it is easy to pressurize organized industry, especially the big retail chains into stopping their present practice of sending such foods to landfills, how can any government stop the house holds from throwing foods into the garbage which cumulatively can be substantial? Probably only education and large scale awareness program can reduce such wastage. One crucial issue is how these foods can find gainful use if there is no organized collection mechanism that can ensure regular offtake of thrown foods for immediate delivery to those who need food badly. Food banks which are functioning in the US with good efficiency may be an exception though such institutional mechanism do exist, albeit in a smaller way in many other countries. World has to take notice of this issue a bit more seriously and there must be a global cooperative efforts to save food. Another dimension to food wastage is its impact on global warming caused by large scale dumping of organic matters like foods in landfills where Methane gas is generated, considered to be deadlier than the much maligned carbon dioxide in that it can trap more heat than CO2. Why not some of the major retailers open new counters to give away date expired foods free to those in need of food but have limited means to buy due to economic limitations. Of course they must ensure that these foods are safe before offering to the needy public from special counters.  .  


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