Farmers can play a role in reducing our food waste

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The inherent nutritional value of all of the fresh produce coming from local farms should be recognised by the supermarkets and other retailers, according Kirsten Dunbar, head of operational policy and delivery at the Food Safety Authority (FSA) in Northern Ireland.

“For example, a carrot that does not have the shape specified by a retailer is no less nutritious or safe to eat than its counterpart which does meet this requirement,” she said.

“And the same parallel can be drawn across the entire range of fruit and vegetables that are grown and sold locally.”

Dunbar was speaking at the completion of this year’s ‘Food Safety Week’, which had as its overarching theme of the need to dramatically reduce the amount of food waste generated throughout the UK.

“We are working with the sustainability charity WRAP to communicate a strong message about food waste to all those businesses and organisations operating at every level within the agri food supply chain,” she added.

Dunbar confirmed that the FSA is also working with agri-food industry leaders to address the challenges they face, where surplus food and redistribution are concerned.

“We will be particularly seeking views on date marking and additional guidance that could be supplied by the FSA to assist organisations in redistributing food.

“Last year, 47,000t of food waste was re-distributed in the UK. We need to encourage a further increase in this number in 2016 and beyond.

“If more redistribution channels are established between farmers, distributors and suppliers, it may be possible to reduce food waste on farms by ensuring surpluses do not enter the food chain in the future.”

She continued: “Food waste is a global issue. About one third of the global food production is lost or wasted annually, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. Small changes can make a big difference. Everyone, including farmers, can play their part in this regard.”

Around 88 million tonnes of food are wasted annually in the EU, with associated costs estimated at €143bn.

According to the European Commission, wasting food is not only an ethical and economic issue but it also depletes the environment of limited natural resources. Brussels wants all stakeholders within the agri food chain to play a role in preventing and reducing food waste, from those who produce and process foods.