Misshapen Food Waste: It’s What’s Inside That Counts

When I was strapped for cash and working in a little town on the East-coast of Australia, I found ways to cut my budget. On my way to the local supermarket, I ambled past a little stall full of fresh bunches of bananas going for 99 cents a kilo. Just down the road in the supermarket, another bunch was being sold for over twice the amount, but what was the difference between the two? Being a lover of fruit and curious, I purchased both.

Well, when I peeled a banana from each bunch, there was no difference. In fact, the cheaper bunch tasted much more delicious since it had been picked fresh that day from the local banana farm. However, the contrast was apparent from the outside.

The supermarket bunch was all the same size, length and colour. The stall bunch was slightly misshapen, with a few green patches, a little less pleasing to the eye but all the more tasty. Needless to say the stall did very well out of me over the following few weeks as in my opinion, their bananas were of greater value for money.

This led me to wonder what on earth has happened to this society. Have we become so fussy that we now discard produce that does not meet our ‘aesthetically pleasing ‘standards, despite being perfectly edible?

Taste not waste

It’s no surprise that we live in a wasteful society. As the world’s population grows, so does the demand for convenience food. Huge supermarket chains are taking over the food industry to supply us with perfect packaged goods. We have become so disconnected from where our food comes from that any fruit or vegetable that looks slightly askew with a few little blemishes, becomes unworthy of our dinner plates. The supermarkets don’t make a profit from these unmarketable misfits, so they are removed before they even hit the shelves.

As stated on thinkeatsave.org

Nearly 1/2 of all fruit & vegetables produced globally are wasted each year. Global quantitative food waste per year are roughly 30 per cent for cereals, 40-50 per cent for root crops, fruits and vegetables, 20 per cent for oil seeds, meat and dairy plus 30 per cent for fish. Fruits and vegetables, plus roots and tubers have the highest wastage rates of any food.

In recent years, regulations on the appearance of produce have been loosened for suppliers and retailers. On July 1st 2009, the EU simplified the rules, allowing twenty-six types of fruits and vegetables to be covered by general marketing standards, meaning retailers may market them all equally despite some being misshapen.

The European parliament aims to half food waste by 2025 by targeting not only irregular shaped produce but how they are grown, processed, marketed and consumed within every household. First, however, individuals’ awareness and attitudes have to change in order for these improvements to be a success. If we can get the consumer to value the product, then the demand shall grow.

 

Beauty is in the eye of the consumer

Although steps have been made to give misshapen fruits and vegetables a deserved place on our supermarket shelves, they are still the last ones to be picked, if picked at all. The cosmetically flawless produce still entices the customer more, leaving the blemished ones seem as if they are not fit to be eaten. But what if the unlucky leftovers were given a name and their own unique marketing edge? That was exactly how “Inglorious fruits and vegetables” was born.

Since the European Union voted to make 2014 the “European year against food waste”, Intermarche, the third largest supermarket chain in France, decided to see what would happen if they bought and sold the produce that was normally thrown out by their growers. They gave them their own aisle and a 30% discount to encourage buyers.

Not only did they reduce the price, they came up with catchy and comical names for the stars of the Inglorious fruits and vegetables campaign. The “grotesque apple,” the “ugly carrot” and the “hideous orange” were three of seven celebrity veggies and fruits to star in their own advert.

The two day experiment was a massive success, selling out 1.2 tons of inglorious produce and consequently saving food and money. The campaign is continuing with a line of juice and soups to show people that they are no different from the perfect looking foods.

This clever initiative increased the public’s awareness of food waste. It had a huge impact on the media and ignited discussions on social networking sites. Since the campaign was launched it has inspired many across the globe to take on this fresh and healthy approach to food waste.

 

A global issue

Doug Rauch, the former president of the Trader Joe’s Company, is launching the Daily Table, a grocery store situated in Roxbury, Boston, a known place of low income and desperation. His plan is to salvage unwanted foods from grocery stores and sell to customers who otherwise would not get the opportunity to access them.

A study from the United States Department of Agriculture states –

The estimated total value of food loss at the retail and consumer levels in the United States was $161.6 billion in 2010. In developed countries like the United States, a relatively larger share of food loss occurs at the consumer end of the spectrum. Food accounts for a relatively smaller share of household incomes, and consumers typically demand a wide variety of high-quality, cosmetically appealing, and convenient foods. As a result, blemished, misshapen, or wrong-sized foods are often discarded to meet minimum quality standards.

After three decades in the grocery business and seeing firsthand the effect of America’s food waste contribution, Rauch retired four years ago to find a solution to the problem he has devoted so much time to.

In the near future I hope to see such creative ideas in every supermarket chain. Saving not only precious food but money for the growers, stores and consumers, I can’t see how this idea could fail. Now is the time for us to take action on the world’s waste issues and shed our shallow beliefs on misshapen produce. After all, none of us are perfect, so why does our food have to be?

 

 

Sources:

http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/fruit-and-vegetables/marketing-standards/index_en.htm

http://www.eufic.org/article/en/artid/How-to-minimise-food-waste/

http://www.ers.usda.gov/amber-waves/2014-june/food-loss%E2%80%94questions-about-the-amount-and-causes-still-remain.aspx#.VAgtXqA_7IU

http://www.thinkeatsave.org/index.php/fast-facts-related-resources

https://www.intermarche.com/home/prospectus-et-promotions.html

http://ec.europa.eu/food/food/sustainability/index_en.htm

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2nSECWq_PE

http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/eib-economic-information-bulletin/eib121/report-summary.aspx#.U7C1V42wLrS

 

Obese? Got a Fatty Liver? No Problem. Spinach & Nuts Have You Covered

 

Besides the obvious reasons for eating spinach and nuts, like losing weight and eating real food, they can also aid in fighting fatty liver disease. For the first time, a correlation between vitamin E and symptoms of fatty liver disease caused by obesity has been uncovered. Fatty liver disease occurs when 5-10% of the weight of your liver comes from fat. It can be caused by alcoholic and non-alcoholic means.

The collaborators, from Case Western Reserve University, the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and Cornell University, discovered that the essential nutrient vitamin E can alleviate symptoms of liver disease brought on by obesity.

The implications of our findings could have a direct impact on the lives of the approximately 63 million Americans who are at potential risk for developing obesity-related liver disease in their lifetimes,

says Danny Manor, an associate professor at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

Eating leafy greens such as spinach, as well as nuts and sunflower oils, could help battle the symptoms of fatty liver disease since they contain high amounts of vitamin E. Vitamin E has many beneficial health altering properties such as protection against toxins like air pollution, premenstrual syndrome, eye disorders such as cataracts, neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes.

The Fatty Liver Test

Dr Manor tested this hypothesis on a group of mice that were in the advanced stage of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). It’s a common symptom of obesity by fat accumulation and inflammation in the fatty liver. The team deprived the group of mice of vitamin E and recorded an increase of fat deposition and other liver problems in the mice. Once vitamin E supplements were given to the mice, these symptoms ceased to exist.

Lessons Learned
  • The vast majority of adults do not consume enough vitamin E. This is most likely due to the increased consumption of processed foods which are not rich in Vitamin E for the most part.
  • We need to consume more vegetables, nuts and seeds, or a supplement, in order to get our daily vitamin E intake as well as to lose weight and avoid fatty liver symptoms.

Sources:

http://www.webmd.com/hepatitis/fatty-liver-disease

http://www.dailymail.co.uk

http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminE-HealthProfessional/

The Greatest Medical Discovery of Our Time: Starve Cancer by Eating

Everybody in the world has a body that produces abnormal cancer cells.  For most people, the cancer cells, usually the size of the tip of a ball point pen, does not have any available oxygen from surrounding blood vessels, and thus perishes.  In this same way, if we are able to destroy the tiny capillary veins through a natural process of antiangiogenisis the cancer cells will be rendered harmless and quickly disappear without any available oxygen.

In this TED talk, William Li describes a new approach to treating cancer by halting angiogenesis, or the growth of blood vessels.  By consuming antiangiogenic foods the survival time of patients with  late stage cancer can be extended by more than six times the normal span.

Many different antiangiogenic drugs and topical creams have been created but they come with the price of dealing with many side effects.  Not only is antiangiogenic food side effect free, it is also cheaper and, most importantly, more effective.

Li has already shown dramatically effective and efficient results in his work but takes the idea of treating cancer a step further by emphasizing prevention.  Very simply, all forms of cancer, and more over disease, can be prevented through diet.

This article goes into detail regarding how the antiangiogenic properties of certain foods were discovered. It also mentions many diseases that can be treated through antiangiogensis including:

  • Cancer
  • Blindness
  • Psoriasis
  • Endometriosis
  • Obesity
  • Rosacea
  • Alzheimers

A list of some highly antiangiogenic foods are as follow:

  1. Green Tea
  2. Strawberries
  3. Blackberries
  4. Blueberries
  5. Raspberries
  6. Oranges
  7. Grapefruits
  8. Lemons
  9. Apples
  10. Pineapples
  11. Cherries
  12. Red grapes
  13. Red wine
  14. Bok Choy
  15. Soybean
  16. Ginseng
  17. Maitake
  18. Licorice
  19. Turmeric
  20. Nutmeg
  21. Artichoke
  22. Lavender
  23. Pumpkin
  24. Sea Cucumber
  25. Tuna
  26. Parsley
  27. Garlic
  28. Tomato
  29. Olive Oil
  30. Grape Seed
  31. Dark Chocolate

“Of these foods, the ones that appear to have the most potent anti-angiogenesis activity include (in order of potency):”

  1. Soy extract
  2. Artichoke
  3. Parsley
  4. Berries
  5. Soy
  6. Garlic
  7. Red grapes
  8. Brassica
  9. Citrus
  10. Lavender
  11. Green tea
  12. Glucosamine
  13. Turmeric
  14. Tea

Li also discusses how the foods almost miraculously and inexplicably work synergistically. Researchers tested the antiangiogenic properties “of three different types of tea to inhibit blood vessel growth. In this study, they determined that they all had anti-angiogenesis activity, however, of the three, Earl Grey appeared to be the most potent. The researchers then decided to combine the two weaker teas and test the anti-angiogenesis activity of the mixture. They discovered that the combination of the two weaker teas resulted in more inhibition of blood vessel growth than the stronger Earl Grey tea. According to Dr. Li, this shows the presence of what is called “Nutritional Synergy” meaning, smaller quantities of many different nutrients and phytochemicals is likely superior to high quantities of fewer nutrients.”

Food is medicine, and prevention is the key to longer, healthier lives.