When I was a girl, my parents were very watchful: no waste was permitted at the table, no bread was left (it was either eaten, or saved for the next meal), all plates had to be carefully emptied, as if it was daily spring cleaning, and leftovers would be included in the next day’s meal preparation… making use of leftovers was indeed quite an art and considered as such. Maybe it is still an art. I’ve heard about American ways to approach Thanksgiving leftovers so as not to be sick of eating the same thing for a few days … 

It took me by surprise when looking into animal feed: waste is forbidden both on the nutritional level, as shown by the very precise nutritional patterns, and on the farm level. But is there a real study of efficiency there?

At least 50 percent of food wastage in the EU today is avoidable, and urgent measures are needed to tackle it, says a draft resolution from European Commission to be voted on January 19. Members of the European Parliament will suggest awareness campaigns, food education courses, better packaging and new sell-by date labeling. In a separate debate with Commissioner Cioloş, MEPs will also address the issue of rising food production costs. http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/videoplayer.cfm?ref=82379  

Up to 50 percent of edible and healthy food (nearly 179 kg per person per year) gets wasted in EU households, supermarkets and restaurants each year, while 79 million EU citizens live below the poverty line and 16 million depend on food aid from charitable institutions, notes the European Commission draft. Public procurement rules should also be updated to favor caterers who redistribute leftover food to needy citizens, it adds. If nothing is done, food wastage will grow 40 percent by 2020, says a study published by the European Commission.

Regarding means to feed the next human generation, what strikes me about food production is the amount of waste occurring along the entire food chain. The very interesting study, published in May 2011 by the Food and Agriculture Organization, “Global Food Losses and Food Waste” is based on studies carried out by the Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology and highlights these food losses (www.fao.org/fileadmin/user_upload/ags/publications/GFL_web.pdf).

“On a per capita basis, much more food is wasted in the industrialized world than in developing countries. We estimate that the per capita food waste by consumers in Europe and North-America is 95-115 kg/year, while this figure in Sub-Saharan Africa and South/Southeast Asia is only 6-11 kg/year. The causes of food losses and waste in low-income countries are mainly connected to financial, managerial and technical limitations in harvesting techniques, storage and cooling facilities in difficult climatic conditions, infrastructure, packaging and marketing systems. Given that many smallholder farmers in developing countries live on the margins of food insecurity, a reduction in food losses could have an immediate and significant impact on their livelihoods.”

The authors of the Food and Agriculture Organization's study point to consumer behavior: “The causes of food losses and waste in medium/high-income countries mainly relate to consumer behavior as well as to a lack of coordination between different actors in the supply chain. Farmer-buyer sales agreements may contribute to quantities of farm crops being wasted. Food can be wasted due to quality standards, which reject food items not perfect in shape or appearance. At the consumer level, insufficient purchase planning and expiring ‘best-before-dates’ also cause large amounts of waste, in combination with the careless attitude of those consumers who can afford to waste food.”

Speaking with a school lunch organizer in December 2011, I was very surprised to learn that every morning they took pride in counting the exact number of children eating lunch that day at school so as to avoid waste… a good example of a day-to-day simple, but very efficient, idea.

Notwithstanding, waste is produced by law, as shown by two recent items in the news.

In our last post, we spoke about “illegal eggs” produced on farms not complying with European welfare regulations: these eggs go to industry. We can also speak about illegal fisheries: French official customs just gave 5,034 kg of tuna that was illegally fished in Yemen to a charity (Les Paniers de la Mer). Phew: no food waste there.