Cutting food waste went a notch higher on Tuesday evening as world ministers were treated to a feast of Kenyan foodstuff rejected by UK supermarkets.
The food, served during the ongoing Universal Session of the Unep Governing Council and Global Ministerial Forum (GC-GMF) in Nairobi, had been rejected due to cosmetic imperfections.
Farmers have been silently complaining about stringent standards imposed by such markets over appearance or orders being changed after vegetables are harvested.
Experts say that about 40 tonnes of food is lost in Kenya per week. The figure could be unacceptably high in other African countries.
The United Nations Enviromental Programme (Unep) says although UK supermarkets are on the spot in Kenya, similar practices occur at other stores in many parts of the developed world, and increasingly in parts of the developing world.
A farmer who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of losing market in Nairobi pointed out that a local supermarket once rejected his French beans because they were ‘too fat’.
The dinner was an attempt by conservationists to highlight the problem of food losses through waste which is increasingly becoming a major concern in Africa and beyond.
This zero-waste reception was organised in support of Think.Eat.Save. Reduce Your Foodprint— an initiative launched in January by Unep, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and partners such as Feeding the 5,000 and Messe Dusseldorf to reduce food loss and waste along the entire chain of food production.
Tristram Stuart, the food waste author and founder of Feeding the 5,000 said he visited producers across Kenya to source around 1,600 kilogrammes of unwanted fruit and vegetables for the meal and for donation to local charities.
“The waste of perfectly edible but “ugly” vegetables is endemic in our food production systems and symbolises our negligence,” Mr Stuart said.
He urged consumers and food retailers to cut the 1.3 billion tonnes of food lost or wasted each year – which aside from the cost implications and environmental impacts increases pressure on the already strained global food system.
“It’s a scandal that so much food is wasted in a country with millions of hungry people; we found one grower supplying a UK supermarket who is forced to waste up to 40 tonnes of vegetables every week, which is 40 per cent of what he grows,” he said.
The quantities of rejected fruits and vegetables alone are so large that local markets cannot handle thus it ends up in the bins or is fed to livestock — sparking anger amongst Kenyan farmers who must bear the costs themselves.
It is estimated that 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted annually despite rising global hunger, with FAO recently putting the number of chronically undernourished people at 870 million.
FAO also estimates that at least one-third of all food produced, worth around $1 trillion, gets lost or wasted during processing and consumption systems globally.
“In industrialised regions, almost half of the total food squandered, around 300 million tonnes annually, occurs because producers, retailers and consumers discard food that is still fit for consumption,” FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said in a statement read on his behalf during the event.