Loving ugly fruit, vegetables good for us, the world, says FAO


Photo courtesy: Flickr

The slightly bent carrot or a spotty potato may not be good for a grocery store shelf or the eye, but throwing them away for want of looks merely means you are wasting food that could well be consumed, the U.N. food organization said.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), one third of food and vegetables produced in the world never ever make it to store shelves because they are rejected on their way from the farm to the store.

The FAO says that while supermarkets have a part to play in this, we must also examine our own consciences given wastage only leaves millions hungry.

So, it’s fine to choose an oval-shaped, matte-colored apple over the perfectly rounded shiny one because even though one of these would definitely make a nicer Instagram photo than the other, both would taste equally as good and would satisfy your hunger in the end, the FAO said.

According to the U.N. agency, 815 million people go hungry ever year while the world as a whole wastes or loses 1/3 of what is produced.

In the case of fruits and vegetables, almost half (45%) is wasted and saving ugly fruit isn’t only an issue of ethics, it is a question of resources.

Valuable natural resources go into producing the food we throw away, the FAO said, adding that it takes 13 litres of water to grow one tomato and 50 litres of water to produce one orange. It also takes seeds, soil, labour of farmers and even the fuel that goes into transporting the food, all of which are lost when the ugly fruit or vegetables is thrown in the garbage.

The poor carrot; unhappy potato

According to the FAO, a carrot often faces many obstacles before even getting to a supermarket as it must pass the rigid requirements for getting a space on the shelf.

“In total about 25-30% of carrots, don’t make it to the grocery store because of physical or aesthetic defects.,” the FAO said in a report, adding that a lot of potatoes are lost or wasted when they are processed into other types of food.

For example, potatoes destined to be French fries, can be wasted in the stage where they are cut into strips. These strips break easily during the processing and packaging stages. The broken pieces are then often thrown out because it is usually cheaper to dispose of them than to reuse them, the FAO said.

Food, however, is lost or wasted throughout the supply chain, from initial agricultural production down to final household consumption.

In medium- and high-income countries food is to a significant extent wasted at the consumption stage, meaning that it is discarded even if it is still suitable for human consumption. Significant losses also occur early in the food supply chains in the industrialised regions, the FAO said in an earlier report.

Overall, on a per-capita basis, much more food is wasted in the industrialised world than in developing countries. The FAO estimates that the per capita food waste by consumers in Europe and North-America is 95-115 kg/year, while this figure in sub-Saharan Africa and South/Southeast Asia is only 6-11 kg/year.


Uttara is a correspondent with Indoasiancommodities. You can write to her on uttara.malhotra@indoasiancommodities.in.


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