Wanting not to waste
Tuesday, July 15, 2008 | 02:30 PM ET
by Amber Hildebrandt, CBCNews.ca
One of my vegetable bins in the fridge is brimming with produce about to go to waste. Half a lettuce head turned slimy. Carrots gone limp. Some broccoli that's questionable. It's the classic mistake of my grocery cart being too big for my stomach.
If I didn't feel guilty enough, the British government released a report last week revealing how families there throw out one-third of the food they buy, a sad fact that puts higher demands on an already straining food market and contributes more greenhouse gas emissions than I'd care to think about.
The Food Matters study came out as Britain and the other industrialized countries in the Group of Eight, including Canada, met in the pristine greenery of northern Japan's Hokkaido island and vowed to halve global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
The report points to the food chain, production and waste as causing its fair share of environmental problems, from the tractors plowing the fields to the plastic-packaged products that are driven to grocery store shelves.
But what's striking is, after all that effort, how much food never makes it into our mouths.
In Britain, a third of purchased food, or 6.7 million tonnes, get thrown out. Some of it consists of peel rinds and bones, but the study says 61 per cent of it is avoidable and could've been eaten if consumers planned better, stored the food properly, were less confused by "sell by" or "best before" labels and didn't cave to "buy one, get one free" deals when it was unlikely they'd eat the food. No such numbers could be found for Canada.
"Eliminating household food waste would deliver major benefits, including a reduction in GHG emissions equivalent to taking one in five cars off UK roads," the report commissioned by Prime Minister Gordon Brown says.
But even before the food makes it to our kitchens from faraway farms, the report estimates up to 40 per cent of harvests are lost in the developing world before it's consumed because of inadequate processing, storage and transporting.
Even then, I wonder whether in the face of a global food crisis we should be wagging our fingers less at industry and looking more inside our own fridges.
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About the blog
From trends and culture to politics and nutrition, Food Bytes serves up tasty tidbits about food and the issues surrounding it that flavour our everyday lives.
About the writers
Amber Hildebrandt writes for CBCNews.ca in Toronto. Growing up on a farm in Manitoba, she acquired an insatiable appetite, but it was during a stint in Japan that she developed her discerning tastebuds and "foodie" ways.
Andrea Chiu is an associate producer at CBC Radio Digital. Though she loves to eat, cook and discuss food, don't ask her to bake. It never turns out well. She tweets as @TOfoodie on Twitter and organizes food and wine events in Toronto called FoodieMeet.
Tara Kimura is the consumer life reporter for CBCNews.ca, covering a wide range of issues that range from rising food costs and the growing organic movement, to new trends in the marketplace.
Andree Lau is a CBC web reporter in Calgary. Her journalism career includes seven years as a CBC-TV reporter. Her own blog called "are you gonna eat that?" chronicles her eating adventures (including sampling snake and camel hoof tendon).
Jessica Wong is a CBCNews.ca writer who loves to eat and cook, as well as discuss, read and watch programming about food, sometimes all at once.
Kevin Yarr, CBCNews.ca's writer in Prince Edward Island, wrote about food and beer for national and regional magazines before joining the CBC. He acquired a desire for new tastes on his first trip to Europe, and an appreciation of eating locally and in season when he finally settled down on P.E.I.
Elizabeth Bridge is a writer with the CBC Digital Archives in Toronto. She first ventured into the kitchen as a child to indulge a sweet tooth by baking cookies and making fudge. A student budget compelled her to be a vegetarian (for a while) and instilled in her an ongoing curiosity about food and cooking.
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