By Jack Peat, Editor of The London Economic
There was a time when food was a valued commodity and was treated as such. We would know the source of our food, understand seasonality and accept that everything has a shelf life, but the industrialisation of food means food waste is no longer the problem, food is.
I hate to waste food, I’ve written many an article on frugal recipes and the method behind the madness, but I’m a product of a dying age and my frugality is motivated more by savings than sustainability. As a nation we throw away seven million tonnes of food and drink from our homes every year and more than half of this is food and drink we could have eaten. Campaigns such as Love Food, Hate Waste are fighting a valiant battle to raise awareness in this arena by giving guidance on planning, storage and ‘money saving apps’, but no amount of campaigning can resolve the fact that we have lost our connection with the earth.
That’s hardly surprising. Take your average supermarket. Broccoli shelved next to avocado, apples next to coconuts, whole aisles that house foods shipped from South America to New Zealand putting the world in a shopping basket all thanks to the wonders of preservatives. Outside the fruit and veg isles we find refrigerated meats, frozen foods and tinned produce sold for a pittance. If a can of baked beans has to be labelled, taxed, shipped and then marked up to supermarket prices (around 15 per cent) before it is sold off at less than £1 then you have to wonder what’s in the tin (tomatoes and beans as you’re asking, along with five or ten additives and preservatives depending on the brand).
The industrialised food age is about delivering as much as possible for as little as possible. If we are what we eat, then that makes us corn eating, sugar and starch consuming, salt dependent,synthetic chemical divulging carbohydrate addicts. The reason households are responsible for so much waste is because we’re essentially spitting out the abundance of food that factories and corporations are shoving down our throat. We’re not throwing food away at all, we’re throwing away a bunch of synthetic chemicals that look like food. Corn and soybeans masquerading as poultry, genetically modified animals that resemble pork and beef; the fact is that thanks to modern technology we have more food than we can eat, and waste is just the end product of a food chain that is fucked up at every level.
Of course, when corporations become involve right up to consumption then it gets even more worrying. If you thought Coca Cola was bad for you because it contains a lot of sugar you’re only partially right, the same goes for those acting under the misguided assumption that McDonalds and KFC should be avoided because they serve food full of salt, because it’s actually the ingredients that you don’t know about that are the most disconcerting. Coca Cola uses large amounts of high-fructose corn syrup (a cheap alternative to sugar), and although it recently announced it would remove the controversial chemical ‘brominated vegetable oil’ (BVO) we still have the caramel colouring 4-MEI, Bisphenol-A (BPA), Sodium Cyclamate and other toxic ingredients to worry about. McDonald’s Big Mac uses a whopping 72 ingredients including fructose corn syrup and sodium, two of the biggest serial killers in the world
But we know eating Big Macs and drinking Coca Cola is bad for us, right? Well, wrong, there are 1.7 billion servings of Coca‑Cola sold every day world-wide and according to 2011 research McDonalds served 325 million customers in Britain in just one quarter, the equivalent of everyone in the country visiting nearly twice a month. But even those of us who eat ‘what’s good for us’ are being misled over what 21st century food actually is. The misguided assumption I hear the most is that meat is ‘good for us’, which originates from an age when meat and poultry lived in fields rather than factories, eating, and thus transferring, the nutrients of the earth. The cover picture of this article paints a more realistic picture.
The point is that we waste seven million tonnes of food per year in Britain because we’re consuming wasteful food. As a nation we have lost our relationship with the earth and in doing so we have allowed an industrial food industry to turn us into industrial people. The big question that I’ll leave you to ponder on is, are we destroying the planet by wasting food or making food? While you think about that, read this; it’ll answer a lot of your questions.