First, a few facts about food loss according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO):
· Approximately one third of the food produced in the world is wasted. This is about 1,3 billion tons of food per year.
· An estimated $680 billion worth of food is wasted annually in industrialized countries; in countries that are developing – by 310 billion dollars a year.
· Industrialized countries and countries that are developing waste approximately the same amount of food – respectively 670 and 630 million tons per year.
· Fruits and vegetables, as well as roots and tubers, are most discarded.
· Per capita, consumer food waste is 95-115 kg per year in Europe and North America, while consumers in sub-Saharan Africa and South and Southeast Asia waste only 6-11 kg per year.
· At the retail level, a lot of food is wasted just because it doesn’t look perfect on the outside. This applies mainly to fruits and vegetables. Fruits with small external defects are not bought as readily as fruits of the “correct” shape and color.
· Food waste is one of the main causes of waste of resources, including water, land, energy, labor and capital. In addition, overproduction of food leads to greenhouse gas emissions unnecessarily. This in turn contributes to global warming.
· Overall, agriculture accounts for between one-fifth and one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. The FAO estimates that 4,4 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide are wasted from food every year. That’s more than India’s entire annual CO2 emissions and nearly as much as the world’s greenhouse gas emissions from road transport.
· Even if only 25% of all wasted food could be saved, that would be enough to feed 870 million people. Currently, 800 million people suffer from hunger.
· Every year we need about 14 million square kilometers of agricultural land to produce the food that is thrown away. This is only slightly less than the total area of Russia.
· In developing countries, 40% of losses occur during post-harvest processing of products. In industrialized countries, more than 40% of losses occur at the level of retailers and consumers. That is, in rich countries, consumers themselves throw away (often untouched) food. And in poor countries, food waste is the result of poor agricultural practices, poor infrastructure, and a poorly developed packaging industry. Thus, it can be said that in rich countries prosperity is responsible for food losses, while in poor countries it is the lack of prosperity that is responsible.
What can you do?
How to minimize food waste at the level of your kitchen? Here are some practical tips:
· Do not go shopping on an empty stomach. Do not use a large cart in the store, take a basket instead.
· Write a list of really necessary products in advance, deviate from it as little as possible.
· Before you buy food on sale at a “good” price, consider whether you really will eat this food in the near future.
· Use smaller plates. People often put more food on large plates than they can eat. The same goes for the stalls in the cafeteria.
· If you have not eaten something in a restaurant, then ask that the leftovers be packed for you.
· Trust your own taste and smell in judging expiration dates. Consumers sometimes think that off-date foods are not safe to eat, but this only applies to perishable foods (such as meat and fish).
Learn more about proper storage.
How to properly store fruits and vegetables
If vegetables and fruits are packaged in special packaging and you do not plan to eat them immediately, then it is better to leave them in the packaging. It is also important to store vegetables and fruits in the right place. Some varieties are best stored in the refrigerator, while others are best kept out of the refrigerator.
Store tomatoes outside the refrigerator in a cool, dry place. By the way, eat only ripe tomatoes. Unripe tomatoes contain tomatine toxin, which can be harmful to health.
Onions quickly absorb moisture and rot, so store them in a dry place. By the way, onions also absorb flavors, including the aroma of garlic, so it’s best to store them separately.
Winter carrots, parsnips, and celery root have a very long shelf life. It is best to keep them in a dry place at 12-15°C.
Potatoes are best kept in a dark, cool place.
Keep eggplants, cucumbers, and peppers out of the refrigerator, but away from tomatoes and fruits. Eggplants are especially sensitive to ethylene, a gas produced by bananas, pears, apples, and tomatoes. Under the influence of ethylene, eggplants become covered with dark spots and become bitter in taste.
Cucumbers dry in the refrigerator. Often cucumbers are sold in a film. Do not remove it because it extends the shelf life by about a week.
Leafy vegetables, such as lettuce and chicory, and cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, daikon, radishes, turnips) are best stored in the refrigerator.
The same goes for celery stalks and leeks.
Lemons and other citrus fruits are best kept in a dark place outside the refrigerator. The average shelf life of citrus fruits is 14 days.
Bananas and other exotic fruits suffer from the cold. If they are stored at temperatures below 7 ° C, then cell destruction begins, the fruit gradually loses moisture and may rot.
Grapes are best kept in the refrigerator. There it will remain in usable condition for seven days, and out of the refrigerator – only three to four days. Store grapes in a paper bag or on a plate.
Apples will last up to three weeks longer in the refrigerator than out of the refrigerator.
Chopped vegetables and fruits should always be stored in the refrigerator. This applies to all varieties.
How to store dairy products
Cottage cheese, milk, yogurt and other dairy products have an expiration date. Until this date, the manufacturer guarantees good quality. After the expiration date, the quality of the product may deteriorate. However, dairy products are often suitable for consumption for several days after the date indicated on the package. Use your sight, smell, and taste to see if a product is still good. Opened yogurt can be stored in the refrigerator for about 5-7 days, milk – 3-5 days.
Well, what about mold? Can partially moldy food be salvaged?
Mold is “noble” and harmful. The first is used in the production of cheeses like Gorgonzola and Brie. This mold can be eaten. Good mold also includes penicillin. The rest of the mold is harmful, or even very harmful. It is very harmful to include mold on cereals, nuts, peanuts and corn.
What to do if mold has spread on food? Some foods can be partially salvaged, but most must be thrown away. You can save hard cheese (parmesan, cheddar) and hard vegetables and fruits (carrots, cabbage). Cut off the entire surface contaminated with mold, plus at least one centimeter more. Place processed foods in clean dishes or paper. But moldy bread, soft dairy products, soft fruits and vegetables, jam and preserves will have to be thrown away.
Remember the following. Cleanliness is a key factor in minimizing mold. Mold spores from contaminated food can very easily spread to your refrigerator, kitchen towels, etc. Therefore, it is recommended to clean the inside of the refrigerator every few months with a solution of baking soda (1 tablespoon to a glass of water). Keep wipes, towels, sponges, mops clean. A musty smell means that mold lives in them. Throw away all kitchen items that cannot be completely washed.