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Corporate retail grocery giants contributing to global hunger and food waste by rejecting food that's 'too ugly'

Food waste

(NaturalNews) Global food waste has become an increasingly concerning problem that the world needs to address. According to The Guardian, 60 million tons of produce, or one-third of all the world's foodstuffs, are wasted by retailers and consumers on an annual basis.

As a result of consumer and retailer rejection of produce that does not meet their unrealistic standards of cosmetic perfection, "vast quantities of fresh produce grown in the US are left in the field to rot, fed to livestock or hauled directly from the field to landfill."

With world hunger affecting nearly 795 million people in the world, finding ways to limit excessive food waste is of paramount importance.

Food experts worldwide have made continuous claims stating that "governments cannot effectively fight hunger ... without reducing food waste."

While U.S. President Barack Obama and the UN have vowed to cut the amount of global food waste in half by the year 2030, federal intervention may not be the answer to the problem.

Food waste a result of consumers' desire for 'perfect' produce

Jay Johnson, a shipper of fruits and vegetables in North Carolina, told The Guardian, "It's all about blemish-free produce. What happens in our business today is that it is either perfect, or it gets rejected."

It's no mystery that consumers do not want to purchase produce with damaged packaging or slight blemishes. That's no reason to throw this food away though. Minor scars and bruises have little to do with a fruit or vegetable's overall freshness and quality.

According to recent reports, 50 percent of all U.S. produce is allegedly turned into food waste, making it the largest contributing factor to landfills and waste incinerating practices.

"A lot of the waste is happening further up the food chain and often on behalf of consumers, based on the perception of what those consumers want," said Roni Neff, director of the food system environmental sustainability and public health program at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future in Baltimore, Maryland.

As a result, corporate retailers often refuse to buy shipments of produce containing even the slightest amounts of "scarred" products. Therefore, many farmers and food producers know not to even include "imperfect" produce in their shipments, for fear of damaging their reputations as suppliers.

Additionally, if they did want to call out retailers for not buying produce that "would pass a USDA inspection" despite its aesthetic blemishes, many wholesalers are worried that they would be boycotted.

"These big growers do not want to piss off retailers. They don't enforce Paca [Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act of 1930] on Safeway, Walmart or Costco," said Ron Clark, who formerly worked in the farming and food bank industries for more than 20 years, and co-founded Imperfect Produce, a San Francisco-based start-up dedicated to finding markets in which to sell produce rejected by corporate retailers.

Denmark makes strides in limiting food waste

Instead of trashing this "imperfect" food, maybe we could use it as a tool to combat world hunger? Food waste supermarkets established in Denmark are a great example of using the excessively wasteful habits of consumers and retailers to do some good. Since 2010, Denmark has reduced its total food waste by 25 percent, thanks to the opening of numerous grocery stores and kitchens selling food products rejected by regular retailers.

"We collect fruit and vegetables from local supermarkets to sell twice a week. It may be that the packaging's damaged or it's nearing its best before date, but it's still good food – so we thought, why let it go to waste?" said Bettina Bach of Bo Welfare, a Danish social housing project that runs a series of food waste pop-up shops.

While a change won't be seen until the public becomes educated on the minimal effects cosmetic blemishes and other discouraging signs of imperfection have on the nutritional value of produce, it is of crucial importance that forward-thinking pioneers continue to seek out ways to make use of outcast, rejected fruits and vegetables.







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