Several weeks ago, we enjoyed one of those hearty family dinners that my mother had cooked. And quite appropriately, the topic of discussion around the table turned to food. My mother explained that she’d recently had lunch with several friends. One of the ladies in question happened to have remarked that whenever her children visited, they always seemed to scold her for having food in the kitchen that was past its sell-by date. All of the ladies admitted familiarity with this sort of criticism, and my mother commented that we sometimes rashly throw away food unnecessarily in her opinion.
As an indication: The Dutch population currently disposes of some 2.4 billion euros worth of foodstuffs annually, sixty percent of which is still perfectly edible. The Ministry of Agriculture has therefore set the objective of achieving a twenty percent reduction in the level of waste food by 2015. This naturally starts with the basics, i.e. the optimum use of natural resources. In addition, however, consumers need to adopt a more conscious attitude to the quantities that they purchase. After all, the sell-by date is – of course – just a guideline to indicate that the product is fit for human consumption until at least that time. Many products remain perfectly edible well beyond their sell-by date.
What really shocked me personally, however, is that EU trade regulations state that various products (including apples, pears and tomatoes) may only be sold in the shops if they comply with certain visual requirements. In other words, one might almost believe that all tomatoes are perfectly round and bright red, because that’s the only way we see them in the supermarket.
Why wouldn’t slightly misshapen apples, strawberries and kiwis taste just as good; in much the same way as the ladies that appear in commercials for Dove? Various advertising and awareness campaigns have finally persuaded us women that we cannot possibly all be a size 8. There’s nothing wrong with us the way we are!
Isn’t it then also high time that we impress upon consumers that a slightly less than round tomato is perfectly nutritious and tasty? And that an apple that is less vibrantly green is nevertheless highly edible, and perhaps even juicier? In that case, the fruit and veggies laid out in the supermarket might soon be able to just be itself.
Incidentally, research performed by the Dutch environmental agency Milieu Centraal and the Netherlands Nutrition Centre reveals that primarily the elderly adopt a more frugal approach to food. Youngsters have far fewer qualms about throwing food away, apparently. Perhaps it’s time we started listening to our parents again – just for a change…