Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Feeling Virtuous About Our Excellent Food Choices, Are We?

Abstract : Improving diet quality while simultaneously reducing environmental impact is a critical focus globally. Metrics linking diet quality and sustainability have typically focused on a limited suite of indicators, and have not included food waste. To address this important research gap, we examine the relationship between food waste, diet quality, nutrient waste, and multiple measures of sustainability: use of cropland, irrigation water, pesticides, and fertilizers. Data on food intake, food waste, and application rates of agricultural amendments were collected from diverse US government sources. Diet quality was assessed using the Healthy Eating Index-2015. A biophysical simulation model was used to estimate the amount of cropland associated with wasted food. This analysis finds that US consumers wasted 422g of food per person daily, with 30 million acres of cropland used to produce this food every year. This accounts for 30% of daily calories available for consumption, one-quarter of daily food (by weight) available for consumption, and 7% of annual cropland acreage. Higher quality diets were associated with greater amounts of food waste and greater amounts of wasted irrigation water and pesticides, but less cropland waste. This is largely due to fruits and vegetables, which are health-promoting and require small amounts of cropland, but require substantial amounts of agricultural inputs. These results suggest that simultaneous efforts to improve diet quality and reduce food waste are necessary. Increasing consumers’ knowledge about how to prepare and store fruits and vegetables will be one of the practical solutions to reducing food waste.
PLOS One  Zach Conrad, Meredith T. Niles, Deborah A. Neher, Eric D. Roy, Nicole E. Tichenor, Lisa Jahns 
"Eating healthy is important, and brings many benefits, but as we pursue these diets, we must think much more consciously about food waste."
Meredith Niles, study-co-author

"Food waste is an issue that plays out at many different levels. Looking at them holistically will become increasingly important to finding sustainable ways of meeting the needs of a growing world population."
Zach Conrad, study lead author
1.3 billion tonnes of food is lost or wasted every year around the globe
1.2 billion tonnes of food is lost or wasted every year around the globe. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Consumer education is of primary importance in the preparation and storage of food, as well as acquiring the capacity to assess when foods still retain their nutrient value, remain fresh enough to consume, as opposed to appearing superficially damaged, but still nutritionally edible.

It is safe enough to venture the opinion, one might feel, that experience is the gateway to knowledge. That people who have handled food products for a long period of their lives have that familiarity, that the researchers speak to the lack of familiarity of new food consumers learning their way around the corridors of food edibility, preparation, hygiene and safety.

What they have focused on in their study recently published in PLOS One, was that those consumers who base their nutritional intake on "higher quality diets", surprisingly enough generate the most food waste. The link they make between diet quality and food waste reveals that vegetables and fruits are misused casually on a more frequent basis than other food categories, according to study co-author Meredith Niles.

It is true in a society in which all manner of foods are readily available, we tend to take their presence for granted, and in so doing fail to take the care we should to ensure we use those primary foods while they are still fresh and holistically nutritious. Failing to do so creates waste when the food spoils and must be discarded.

Our penchant for spurning food that fails to have that perfect appearance despite that its nutritional value is no different from visually pleasing counterparts does us no credit in respecting food choices, as well.
The Passionate Eye  Wasted! The Story of Food Waste – Chef

The study demonstrated that in the United States fruits, vegetables and mixtures incorporating both result in about 39 percent of total daily food waste, while the second most squandered category is dairy at 17 percent, meat at 14 percent, and finally grains, at 12 percent waste. Foods of lesser quality such as processed products, potatoes, soup, nuts and eggs together represent less than ten percent wastage.

Yet, though lower quality diets generate less food waste, the implications appear to be that "low nutritional value and higher rates of cropland wasted".

The average American's waste quotient adds up to close to a pound of food daily (454 grams). Canadians, on the other hand, also appear to represent themselves among the world's worst food-wastage offenders.

CBC Marketplace spent six months investigating the food that supermarkets throw out. Marketplace staff found dozens of bins full of food behind two Toronto-area Walmart locations. (CBC)

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