This Wednesday, June 14th, we will be hosting The Grid Talks: Food Waste panel discussion at Cloud Coworking at 7 pm. Recently, food waste has become both an environmental and social problem, but what does it really mean? Here we are featuring a brief introduction into the issue, but it will be discussed in depth at our panel discussion.

Food. Everyone loves it, everyone needs it. In many countries, food is plentiful, with supermarkets on every other block. Everything looks fresh and tasty and shelves a rarely bare. however, that is not always the case. In a world of over seven billion people, food production presents itself as a rather unique and complicated issue. Specifically, the realm of food waste, where tonnes of edible, nutritious food is thrown out before it even reaches customers.

It is common practice in grocery stores around the world to remove food from the shelves days before the printed expiry date out of fear that shoppers won’t buy items with a short life expectancy. It is far more profitable to remove food and replace it with the same items with slightly newer versions.

Expiry dates in and of themselves are a complicated issue since very few products are legally required to carry them. In some cases, they are even arbitrary, with products remaining safe and edible long after they should have supposedly expired. It’s even evident in the language, often labelled as Sell By, or Best Before. Neither of these terms clearly state that the food would be dangerous otherwise.

When hunger and malnutrition are two of the largest and most complicated issues facing the modern world, there has been a much outcry against these practices. The question becomes, what do we do with all this food that consumers are not willing to purchase because largely inconsequential dates printed next to the label?

Over a year ago, France became the first countries to actively legislated the prohibition of supermarket food waste. A bill that passed unanimously declared it illegal to throw away good quality food items based on their sale by date. Instead, it will either be composted or donated to charities, feeding those who are otherwise unable to eat. Also included, specific terms that ban the common practice of pouring chemicals, specifically bleach, over food products to make them inedible to people scavenging through dumpsters for their next meal.

Experts predict that because of these new laws, 10 million more free meals will be distributed in France alone. Other countries, such as Italy, have set up to follow suit.

It sounds all good, right? Eliminating food waste and feeding the hungry. So why haven’t more countries adopted similar laws?

Well, it’s a complicated issue. Certain countries, such as the United States of America, corporations donating food could potentially open themselves to lawsuits if the food is spoiled. Other countries offer tax breaks to the businesses who donate as a method of encouragement but still refuse to create legislation that would enforce the practice.
However, in the future, as food distribution disparities continue to grow, many could still change their mind and help provide food to those in need while eliminating food waste.

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