Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Fill bellies, not bins

Fresh produce simply thrown away
Those of you who read this blog will know that I feel strongly about the amount of food that goes to waste in the world. So why does this get me in a lather?  Well, all the world's nearly one billion hungry people could be lifted out of malnourishment on less than a quarter of the food that is wasted in the US, UK and Europe – that’s why.

So I have huge admiration for Tristram Stuart, who is the founder of “Feeding the 5,000”. I hope he does not mind that I have not only nicked his title for this particular blog, but I have also copied out part of an article he has written, as I think that everyone should be aware of what is happening out there! Here it is:

“Farmers visited by the Feeding the 5000 team in Kenya are wasting 40% of the food they grow thanks to the unfair and unnecessary trading practices of European supermarkets whom they supply. One exporter outside Nairobi visited by the team, while working in partnership with UNEP, wastes at least 20 tonnes of edible produce every day. Worst of all, waste handlers collecting the unwanted produce are made to sign a contract guaranteeing that none of the “green waste” will be used to feed people, even though most of it is perfectly fit for consumption – and meanwhile millions go hungry on the other side of the depot’s perimeter.
Typically the produce is wasted either because the European retailer has cancelled a forecast demand at the last minute, or because it has failed the ultra-fussy cosmetic standards of the retailers. Farmers incur the cost of this waste even though it has been caused by the policies of European supermarkets.

A recently passed law in the UK, the Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill, ensures that UK supermarkets abusing their power in this way can be subject to public naming and shaming and ultimately fines of up to 1% of turnover (the equivalent of up to half a billion pounds). Measures to introduce similar regulation across Europe are under way and Feeding the 5000 will indicate that this would help to reduce waste by encouraging supermarkets to make more accurate forecasts, and avoid unfair trading practices.

Within Europe, much needs to be done to optimise the conditions for donating unsold food for charitable purposes. The parliament of the Brussels region recently voted to force supermarkets to donate unsold food rather than destroy it: should other countries follow suit? Or should we follow France and the US in offering companies a tax rebate on the value of donated food? At the very least, all countries that still impose VAT on food that is donated, presenting a clear barrier to food redistribution, should surely follow Poland and Belgium’s example and scrap VAT on food donations”.

I hope that many of you will find this as unacceptable as I do. If you want to find out more of what Tristram’s “Feeding the 5000” project is up to – then go to:


  1. I wholeheartedly agree with your sharp and unsparing analysis. The funny part is that it all leads back to waste management. There's a principle in here, which reminds us about the type of stuff we tend to throw away and why we should aid in the wiser distribution of resource, so that one doesn't get too much while the other gets too little. I believe that with following so, we wouldn't have too much waste. Thanks for sharing!

    Clarence Rios @ Bins By Jo

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