Ali Clarke: Outdated Ideas Putting the “Raw” in the Grocery
If I close my eyes, I can see it perfectly. One hand resting on the refrigerator door to keep it from bouncing off her hip, the other fumbling around, looking for something to serve for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
I know what will follow.
The lifting of the package, the search for the tiny black imprint and then the inevitable sniffle. Sniff, sniff, sniffffffff.
You see, my father has olfactory abilities that would make truffle dogs cry. Meals from my childhood were usually preceded by that strong nasal hold, the look back at the best-before or best-before date and the inevitable words, “Smells good.” She will be right.
Then the dollop of the questionable cream, yoghurt or cheese would be accompanied by a lecture that these dates on the containers “mean nothing bloody” and “eat” because “there are people in the world who would like that “.
I wish I could say the resulting meal was gobbled up on its merits, but even now I remember the worried delicacy associated with ignoring an instruction on the packet – the hunch that I might eat something which would leave an unfortunate flavor.
Today I get it, and in the ultimate example of “makes you feel good” I now find myself having the same argument with my kids.
“Don’t be silly, it’s just a best-before date,” I say, wondering why they’re so loyal to ambiguous and hard-to-read food labeling rules, but absolute anarchists. when prescribed screen time is involved.
Now imagine my joy (and my dad’s) that some UK supermarkets have decided to abandon the ‘best before’ labeling system.
Imagine throwing away about one in five shopping bags.
For those who aren’t there, best before dates are all about food safety, while “best before” is more about product performance: ie; whether or not it will have the quality of taste/experience you are shelling out your hard-earned for.
While the UK is moving away from such prescriptive labeling seems to have started in 2018, it has only really gained popularity this year. Last month or so, a wave of stores signed on to the changes.
Not so much here.
While food labeling has been much discussed in Australia, we have focused more on country of origin declarations than the idea of food waste caused by labels.
According to our largest charity hunger relief food bank, we waste approximately 7.6 million tons of food per year, the majority of which is edible.
It costs the economy $36.6 billion a year, and if you break that down, it’s between $2,000 and $2,500 per household every year.
Raise your hand if you think cash might come in handy the next time a bill comes?
If you don’t think about numbers, consider throwing away about one in five shopping bags.
This puts the crude in the grocery store.
The Australian government has pledged to halve our country’s food waste by 2030, while Aldi and Woolies aim to send zero waste to landfill five years earlier.
Although food waste happens all along the supply chain, we need public opinion to push for it, but given that a recent Canadian study showed overwhelming opposition to the removal of expiry dates, it may not be as simple as following in the footsteps of British gastronomy.
I can also imagine there will be resistance from some manufacturers and retailers who are looking for the turnover. Then there’s the broader consideration of low-income consumers who live off items that are pushed into the “reduced for quick sale” section because that turnover would slow down dramatically.
If we are serious about food waste, all of these considerations, while valid, should be set aside.
Our stricter food laws might not allow something as simple as the sniff test to the abroad and my dad, but when it’s the psychology of a few little black numbers that’s really holding us back, surely we can make changes that would see our environment win by a nose.
Ali Clarke presents the breakfast show on Mix 102.3. She is a regular columnist for InDaily.
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