Toronto Programs

Danish supermarket gives expired food another shelf life

Instead of throwing expired or blemished food in the garbage, a new Danish supermarket is offering a tasty proposition for how to curb food waste by giving leftover, unwanted food a second shelf life.

We-Food supermarket tackles food waste by selling food past its best-before date

Thousands line-up outside We-Food's second location at its opening earlier this month. The Danish charity is curbing food waste by selling "second-hand" food, blemishes and all. (We-Food/Facebook)

Instead of throwing expired or blemished food in the garbage, a new Danish supermarket is offering a tasty proposition for how to curb food waste by giving leftover, unwanted food a second shelf life. 

In Canada, $31-billion worth of food ends up in landfills or composts each year, according to a 2014 report from Value Chain Management International, but We-Food, a supermarket started by a Copenhagen charity is helping to prevent food waste by selling food that's past its best-before date.

"We're selling all kinds of food products," said Thomas Mølgaard Anderson, head of Second Hand & We-Food at DanChurchAid, on Metro Morning. "It's illegal to sell food past its date of expiry, but it's still legal to sell food that's past its best-before-date."

Selling food past its best-before date

Often it's food that's not even at its best-before date, explains Anderson. The "second-hand" food might come from a container rattled during shipping or dropped so grocery stores can't sell it, but the supermarket has made it easier for corporations to donate their blemished and unwanted products. 

Anything we get donated we try to sell.- Thomas Mølgaard Anderson, We-Food

We-Food opened in February in Denmark's capital, and the charity selling food for about half the original price is so popular, they opened a second location earlier this month and plan to open a third location this spring. 

"It's a concern for everyone," Anderson said. "You have the youngsters, a person on welfare benefits, you have the middle class, you have the above middle class people — it's a very big mixture — the only group that we see in our market surveys that are under-represented for now is the older part of the population. In some way they haven't connected to this yet."

All the food sold at We-Food for half the price of regular grocery stores is received through donation and checked by staff before hitting shelves. (We-Food/Facebook)

We-Food stocks everything from sodas to frozen goods, fresh bread, fruits and vegetables. It also carries cakes, olive oil and canned goods. "Anything we can get donated we try to sell," said Anderson.

New supermarket tackles food waste

DanChurchAid, the not-for-profit organization who runs the supermarket, got the idea from selling used clothes and furniture at second-hand stores, and translated their experience to cut down excess food waste by giving these products another shelf life.

"The product that hasn't passed the best-before date is equivalent of what you would buy in a normal supermarket," he said. "The product that has passed the best-before date is generally the same quality, but we just can't guarantee it 100 per cent." 

We-Food is a Danish supermarket 'open to everyone' and responsible for curbing Denmark's food waste problem. (We-Food/Facebook)

But every week these volunteer run stores clearly label the food past its best-before date and check the quality of its products by opening, smelling and tasting them to see if they're safe for consumption. 

This year Anderson estimates that We-Food has curbed around 125 tonnes of garbage from Denmark's landfills, an idea that could help Canada tackle its massive problem of over-production and wasted food. 

According to this year's Toronto Environmental Alliance waste audit, 1.8-thousand tonnes of garbage that should have been composted goes into city-owned landfills every year. 

"I think what's really strong about this is that it's easy to understand, it's easy to act upon and you get the value yourself, I mean you get groceries," he said. 

Sounds of the Season is CBC Toronto's annual charity drive. Please visit our website for details on the Dec. 2 event and how you can support local food banks.

With files from Metro Morning