War on food waste: One easy step to throw out much less

Every Australian, on average, disposes of nearly 300 kilograms of food a year, research reveals.

As a result, Australia holds the unenviable title of fourth-highest contributor to food waste in the world.

Stop Food Waste Day (April 26) is the perfect time to reflect on the fact that food waste costs the Australian economy $36.6 billion a year, equating to 7.6 million tonnes of wasted food each year, of which 70 per cent is perfectly edible.

Unfortunately, food waste is a major contributor to climate change – responsible for 8 to 10 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. This begs the question, what type of foods are ‘wastage offenders’?

The top five most-wasted foods in Australia are vegetables, bread, fruit, bagged salad, and leftovers.

Interestingly, fresh produce is the theme linking them all under the same category. The reason being, common practice by retailers and consumers is to discard fresh produce that is close to or beyond the ‘best before” date.

Adding to this, supermarket retailers impose strict criteria when purchasing fresh produce from suppliers.

Much like they’re in a beauty pageant, produce must meet certain shape, size, and colour standards and if not reached, it is rejected. Following suit, within the food service industry fresh produce and leftover goods that are spoilt must be discarded.

When it comes to the war on food waste, who would have thought fresh produce would be the greatest villain?

Across the globe, almost half of all fruit and vegetables produced are wasted (that’s 3.7 trillion apples) and more shockingly, food rotting in landfill releases methane 28 times stronger than carbon dioxide. A single head of lettuce can take 25 years to decompose in landfill.

These facts run contrary to consumers’ ingrained bias that fresh is always better! But what is the alternative to fresh produce?

Alternative to fresh food

When it comes to reducing food waste, freezing produce, or buying frozen foods can significantly outperform fresh produce.

Consumers often don’t know that bread and many fruits or vegetables can be frozen. By freezing produce, shelf life is extended, meaning the amount of food used at a particular time is controllable and serving sizes can be limited to what is needed.

Also, when producing the mini potato cakes/scallops, we use the retail reject second ‘ugly’ potatoes which, in turn, reduces food wastage. By using retail reject potatoes, methane gases are reduced as potato farmers do not need to put produce back into the ground.

Due to the increasing impacts of climate change, the percentage of undersized or ugly ‘retail reject’ potatoes have been projected to increase significantly.

This became undeniably evident during the devastating floods throughout Australia in 2022.

Potato farmers were hit particularly hard by the floods, which caused massive harvest reductions to their crops, resulting in a potato shortage across the country.

Despite the shocking facts outlined throughout this article, fresh produce remains the undisputed king. But when it comes to reducing food wastage, frozen food is emerging as queen and is leading the pack as the best alternative to fresh produce.

Frozen foods also empower consumers to control portion size that can save time and money. In other words, consumers pay only for what they eat and freeze the rest for later.

Strategic usage of frozen food is effective at reducing and potentially eliminating food wastage in the household altogether.

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