Stop feeding the greed! Someone had to do it and at last Congresswoman Chellie Pingree is making a stand against food waste. Her target is the obscene throwaway culture in America’s grocery stores, restaurants, schools and farms.
Chellie Pingree’s bold initiative to end what amounts to institutional profligacy in the food chain is contained in HR 4184 - The Food Recovery Act. We promise to keep you updated on its progress. Why don’t you lobby your political representatives in support!
The solution she offers is law that will sweep away misleading sell-by dates on products. The two dozen provisions of the legislation aim to tackle waste by replacing the discredited ‘Use by’ with ‘Best if used by’ and in big bold letters ‘Manufacturers Suggestion Only.’
Here at Food Fight we suggest another label might be useful. Why not print ‘Use Your Nose’ on food packaging. That would remind consumers of the bad food detection equipment, which served their grandparents and all mankind for millenniam the human nose.
With the US wasting 40% of all food purchased at a cost of $160 billion dollars annually (accounting for 20% of landfill) then, like we said, someone had to do something.
The Congresswoman summed it up like this, "Currently there are no federal laws regarding expiration dates. Manufacturers can go overboard with the dates they put on food—and it can lead to consumers and retailers throwing out perfectly good food."
No surprises there as ‘Use-by” is the food equivalent of ‘built in obsolescence’ notoriously deployed by the manufacturers of white goods to make sure you really did need a new washing machine after two or three years.
Just how agri-business and the food processing giants will respond to HR 4184 remains to be seen. Be in no doubt it puts them in a very trick position. On the one hand they can never openly condone waste. On the other it seriously threatens their profit base.
Think about it. Chellie Pingree was diplomatically understating the effects of ‘Use by’ dates and the consequent throw away of food.
To ‘Big Food’ that waste represents profit. Huge and unnecessary profit thanks to needless overproduction given legitimacy by meaningless food date rules which, as the Congresswoman points out, they make-up themselves.
Take it a step further. Arguments about the need for intensive farming by agri-business are fatally undermined when you factor in an annual gross overproduction of 40% represented by the throwaway rate in the US food chain.
Forty per cent of production is huge and at Food Fight we think it’s big enough to say “Hey let’s hold back on such intensive, chemical based farming. A margin like that means we could do it sustainably. That way people can re-learn the true value of food and the true cost of wasting it.”
So we ask do farmers really need to throw on all that fertilizer on their fields? Do they really need to spray millions of gallons of herbicide over millions of acres of the USA? Does the US meat industry really need to cram cattle into feed-lots for ‘efficient production?’
Plainly not when nearly half of production, and that includes a whole lot of valuable meat protein, ends in a kitchen bin or a superstore dumpster.
So then, three cheers for Congresswoman Pingree of Maine and HR 4184! But there’s a lot more to be done not just in the USA but across the developed economies.
With this in mind Food Fight will soon be taking a look at Europe. There the French are trying to address the problem while the continent’s biggest food wasters, the UK , are burying their heads in the trough.
We’ll also be discussing World War II rationing, not as an alternative model for the 21st Century, but as an exemplar for re-learning integrity in eating. Remember. Waste not. Want not.