Food waste shapes up as a national scandal

UP TO half the food produced in Australia every year — about 44 million tonnes — is thrown away.
According to an Australian Institute study, Australians are discarding food worth $5.2 billion a year.
Shiny potatoes, carrots that are too big and bananas “too sausage-shaped” are being rejected by supermarkets, adding to the food waste burden.
This food then rots on-farm or in landfill, producing methane and creating an environmental burden.
At best, it is fed to livestock for far less than the cost of production.
Potatoes SA chief executive officer Robbie Davis said Australian supermarket specifications were probably the highest in the world.
“There’s a lot of emphasis on aesthetics,” Ms Davis said.
“A potato, a tuber that grows underground, now has to have the right skin finish and appeal visually, as does an apple,” she said.
Ms Davis said waste in the potato industry was at 20-40 per cent and studies had shown potatoes were consistently the highest contributor to horticultural waste.
“We have about a $3 billion agricultural waste in Australia each year and about $1.8 billion of that is horticultural loss,” Ms Davis said. 
She said potatoes were rejected because they were too small, too big or had a “funny shape”.
“We’re not talking about greening, bruising or mechanical damage or damage due to storage, we’re talking entirely about the way they look,” Ms Davis said.
“The consumer has been persuaded to only accept fruit and vegetables that look a certain way and this is the result.”
Ms Davis said most of the potatoes rejected by supermarkets sold for stock feed for $1-$10 a tonne.
“Your input costs are exactly the same for the premium product, which is making hundreds of dollars a tonne, and the product that is rejected and going to stock feed,” Ms Davis said.
She said changing attitudes to imperfect produce would be hard and the best way to tackle waste was to value-add.
“I think it is much more rational and sensible to deal with the waste than try to change the supermarket attitude to this,” Ms Davis said.

Queensland food waste researcher Carol Richards said the Australian food supply chain was “a broken system” based on a “false reality” about what food should look like.
“We’ve gotten used to food looking perfect — we get detached from the fact it’s something that is produced in nature and nature doesn’t create things quite so perfectly,” Ms Richards said.
“I can understand that you don’t want to eat an apple that looks like it might have had a worm in it, but you’ve got a situation where the margins on apple size are so small it’s only a few millimetres difference between an apple that makes spec and one that doesn’t.”
Ms Richards said supermarkets had become the unelected de facto government of the food supply chain.
“I interviewed one mango farm that said they just leave the fruit that won’t meet specifications to drop because they don’t want to invest all the labour in moving it,” Ms Richards said.
“Many farmers are working on very tight margins and they talk about ploughing things back in if they don’t meet specifications.”
However not everyone is critical of supermarket specs.
More than 100,000 tonnes of Queensland bananas go to waste every year because the fruit does not meet cosmetic retail standards.
But Mackay’s Banana Marketing chief executive Richard Clayton said that while that seemed like a lot, it was only 5 per cent of total production.
“I think 5 per cent is a standard error for any kind of production,” Mr Clayton said.
“There is food waste, but you’re growing in the wind and the rain so it’s to be expected.
“It’s up to our skills as growers to get over that and meet the specs — I don’t think the specs are unreasonable.”
Food recovery agency SecondBite chief executive Jim Mullan said since starting a partnership with Coles in 2011, the supermarket giant had donated more than 40 million meals.
A Coles spokesman said Coles worked closely with its growers and suppliers to ­establish and agree on specifications.
“Specifications are based on a number of factors, including farm production, quality and product home life for customers,” the spokesman said.
“These specifications include a range of factors such as size, colour, malformation and defects and have evolved based on historical information such as customer ­insights and feedback gathered over time.”
A Woolworths spokesman said the supermarket always worked hard with suppliers “to ensure specifications strike the right balance to meet our customers’ needs”.

.
POTATO
General appearance criteria
• Firm when tested
• Approximately round to oblong. Non-badly
deformed from standard
• 120g – 350g
• No severe brown spotting of the flesh
• Flesh and skin colour true to variety
Major defects
(Must not exceed 2 per cent of consignment)
• Obvious live insects
• Fungal or bacterial rots
• Deep unhealed cuts, splits, cracks > 20mm long > 2mm wide
• Severe brown spotting of the flesh
Minor defects
(Less than 2 defects per item)
• Cuts or splits
• Superficial bruises, scuffs, pressure or rub marks affecting in total >2 sq cm and > 3mm deep
• Moderate development of silvery shine, brown marking or skin cracking affecting > 5 sq cm
• Moderate black speckling affecting in aggregate > 2 sq cm of surface area

.

POTATO
General appearance criteria
• Firm when tested
• Approximately round to oblong. Non-badly
deformed from standard
• 120g – 350g
• No severe brown spotting of the flesh
• Flesh and skin colour true to variety
Major defects
(Must not exceed 2 per cent of consignment)
• Obvious live insects
• Fungal or bacterial rots
• Deep unhealed cuts, splits, cracks > 20mm long > 2mm wide
• Severe brown spotting of the flesh
Minor defects
(Less than 2 defects per item)
• Cuts or splits
• Superficial bruises, scuffs, pressure or rub marks affecting in total >2 sq cm and > 3mm deep
• Moderate development of silvery shine, brown marking or skin cracking affecting > 5 sq cm
• Moderate black speckling affecting in aggregate > 2 sq cm of surface area

Minor defects 

(Less than 2 defects per item)
• Dry brown scab/speckling (insect damage), or with scars (due to hail or bird damage) affecting areas > 2 sq cm (per cluster)
• Reddish-brown patches (Banana rust) affecting areas > 4 sq cm (per cluster)
• Dark sap stains affecting > 4 sq cm (per cluster)
• Superficial bruises (< 1mm deep), abrasion or rub damage (tan/brown/black) affecting > 8 sq cm (per cluster)


APPLE – GRANNY SMITH
General appearance criteria
• Ground colour bright green. Greenish to white flesh
• Normal bloom, skin smooth, stem intact
• Skin smooth, crunchy, not hard with sweet tangy taste.
No objectionable odours or tastes.
• Elongated tapering to the apex, slightly ribbed and crowned at apex. No irregular curvatures or distorted shapes
• Evenly sized fruit
Major defects
(Must not exceed 2 per cent of consignment)
• Evidence of live insects
• Fungal or bacterial rots of the skin or flesh
• Cuts, holes, cracks or wounds
(that break the skin)
• Skin discolouration (sunburn)
Minor defects
(Less than 2 defects per item)
• Minor superficial bruises
• Healed injuries in skin (eg. Hail marks, limb rub)
affecting in aggregate > 1 sq cm
• Stem end russet affecting > 6 sq cm
• Scattered cheek russet affecting > 2 sq cm


CUCUMBER
General appearance criteria
• Uniform dark green skin, whitish
to pale green flesh, small white seeds
• Smooth to slightly ribbed skin completely over wrapped with food grade protective shrink wrap
• Uniformly firm, smooth, thin skin, slightly ridged skin with rough texture along ridges
• Long and slender, straight to slight banana shape (< 30mm gap to straight edge)
• Firm bodied, not excessively large
• Small/Medium: Length 250 – 320mm. Girth: 30 – 45mm (June to September)
• Medium/Large: Length 300 – 370mm. Girth: 35 – 50mm (all year)
• Large: Length 360 – 400mm. Girth: 35 – 50mm (October to May)
• No mixed pallets permitted
Major defects
(Must not exceed 2 per cent of consignment)
• Evidence of live insects
• Fungal or bacterial rots
• Yellow spots or skin blistering (mosaic viruses)
• Cuts, splits, holes, cracks or wounds that break the skin
• Obvious bruises or soft damaged areas
• Wrinkled, softened or shrivelled skin, or “pinching” at blossom end (dehydration)
Minor defects
(Less than 2 defects per item)
• Shallow (> 2mm deep) pest damage, eg. chewed, scarred areas affecting > 0.5 sq cm
• Dark coloured rub or weather marks affecting aggregate > 0.5 sq cm
• Silver or light beige scuff marks affecting in aggregate > 2 sq cm of surface area


UP TO half the food produced in Australia every year — about 44 million tonnes — is thrown away.
According to an Australian Institute study, Australians are discarding food worth $5.2 billion a year.
Shiny potatoes, carrots that are too big and bananas “too sausage-shaped” are being rejected by supermarkets, adding to the food waste burden.
RELATED COVERAGE: GROWING PAINS FOR PRODUCERS

This food then rots on-farm or in landfill, producing methane and creating an environmental burden.
At best, it is fed to livestock for far less than the cost of production.
Potatoes SA chief executive officer Robbie Davis said Australian supermarket specifications were probably the highest in the world.
“There’s a lot of emphasis on aesthetics,” Ms Davis said.
“A potato, a tuber that grows underground, now has to have the right skin finish and appeal visually, as does an apple,” she said.
Ms Davis said waste in the potato industry was at 20-40 per cent and studies had shown potatoes were consistently the highest contributor to horticultural waste.
“We have about a $3 billion agricultural waste in Australia each year and about $1.8 billion of that is horticultural loss,” Ms Davis said. 
She said potatoes were rejected because they were too small, too big or had a “funny shape”.
“We’re not talking about greening, bruising or mechanical damage or damage due to storage, we’re talking entirely about the way they look,” Ms Davis said.
“The consumer has been persuaded to only accept fruit and vegetables that look a certain way and this is the result.”
Ms Davis said most of the potatoes rejected by supermarkets sold for stock feed for $1-$10 a tonne.
“Your input costs are exactly the same for the premium product, which is making hundreds of dollars a tonne, and the product that is rejected and going to stock feed,” Ms Davis said.
She said changing attitudes to imperfect produce would be hard and the best way to tackle waste was to value-add.
“I think it is much more rational and sensible to deal with the waste than try to change the supermarket attitude to this,” Ms Davis said.
READ MORE
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ED GANNON: FOOD WASTE, RUBBISH A MAJOR PROBLEM IN AUSTRALIA
Queensland food waste researcher Carol Richards said the Australian food supply chain was “a broken system” based on a “false reality” about what food should look like.
“We’ve gotten used to food looking perfect — we get detached from the fact it’s something that is produced in nature and nature doesn’t create things quite so perfectly,” Ms Richards said.
“I can understand that you don’t want to eat an apple that looks like it might have had a worm in it, but you’ve got a situation where the margins on apple size are so small it’s only a few millimetres difference between an apple that makes spec and one that doesn’t.”
Ms Richards said supermarkets had become the unelected de facto government of the food supply chain.
“I interviewed one mango farm that said they just leave the fruit that won’t meet specifications to drop because they don’t want to invest all the labour in moving it,” Ms Richards said.
“Many farmers are working on very tight margins and they talk about ploughing things back in if they don’t meet specifications.”
However not everyone is critical of supermarket specs.
More than 100,000 tonnes of Queensland bananas go to waste every year because the fruit does not meet cosmetic retail standards.
But Mackay’s Banana Marketing chief executive Richard Clayton said that while that seemed like a lot, it was only 5 per cent of total production.
“I think 5 per cent is a standard error for any kind of production,” Mr Clayton said.
“There is food waste, but you’re growing in the wind and the rain so it’s to be expected.
“It’s up to our skills as growers to get over that and meet the specs — I don’t think the specs are unreasonable.”
Food recovery agency SecondBite chief executive Jim Mullan said since starting a partnership with Coles in 2011, the supermarket giant had donated more than 40 million meals.
A Coles spokesman said Coles worked closely with its growers and suppliers to ­establish and agree on specifications.
“Specifications are based on a number of factors, including farm production, quality and product home life for customers,” the spokesman said.
“These specifications include a range of factors such as size, colour, malformation and defects and have evolved based on historical information such as customer ­insights and feedback gathered over time.”
A Woolworths spokesman said the supermarket always worked hard with suppliers “to ensure specifications strike the right balance to meet our customers’ needs”.

.

POTATO
General appearance criteria
• Firm when tested
• Approximately round to oblong. Non-badly
deformed from standard
• 120g – 350g
• No severe brown spotting of the flesh
• Flesh and skin colour true to variety
Major defects
(Must not exceed 2 per cent of consignment)
• Obvious live insects
• Fungal or bacterial rots
• Deep unhealed cuts, splits, cracks > 20mm long > 2mm wide
• Severe brown spotting of the flesh
Minor defects
(Less than 2 defects per item)
• Cuts or splits
• Superficial bruises, scuffs, pressure or rub marks affecting in total >2 sq cm and > 3mm deep
• Moderate development of silvery shine, brown marking or skin cracking affecting > 5 sq cm
• Moderate black speckling affecting in aggregate > 2 sq cm of surface area

.

BANANA
General appearance criteria
• Firm, not soft, nil foreign smells or tastes
• Slightly arched, with blunted butt end and intact,
undamaged necks. Nil with double pulps
or “sausage shapes”
• Small: 160 – 220mm
• Large: 220 – 260mm
• No larger than 260mm
• Dull bloom permitted for winter supplied fruit,
no mixed-ripe cartons
• Receival colour (inner whorl) stage 3.5 summer, uniform within cartons
Major defects
(Must not exceed 2 per cent of consignment)
• Obvious live insects or other pests
• Fungal diseases or soft rots
• Splits, holes, deep bruises or cuts through the peel
into the pulp
• Severed/broken necks
• Excessive scattered brown spots/flecks
• Dull, greyish or blackened peel, or brown under-peel discolouration
Minor defects

(Less than 2 defects per item)
• Dry brown scab/speckling (insect damage), or with scars (due to hail or bird damage) affecting areas > 2 sq cm (per cluster)
• Reddish-brown patches (Banana rust) affecting areas > 4 sq cm (per cluster)
• Dark sap stains affecting > 4 sq cm (per cluster)
• Superficial bruises (< 1mm deep), abrasion or rub damage (tan/brown/black) affecting > 8 sq cm (per cluster)

.

APPLE – GRANNY SMITH
General appearance criteria
• Ground colour bright green. Greenish to white flesh
• Normal bloom, skin smooth, stem intact
• Skin smooth, crunchy, not hard with sweet tangy taste.
No objectionable odours or tastes.
• Elongated tapering to the apex, slightly ribbed and crowned at apex. No irregular curvatures or distorted shapes
• Evenly sized fruit
Major defects
(Must not exceed 2 per cent of consignment)
• Evidence of live insects
• Fungal or bacterial rots of the skin or flesh
• Cuts, holes, cracks or wounds
(that break the skin)
• Skin discolouration (sunburn)
Minor defects
(Less than 2 defects per item)
• Minor superficial bruises
• Healed injuries in skin (eg. Hail marks, limb rub)
affecting in aggregate > 1 sq cm
• Stem end russet affecting > 6 sq cm
• Scattered cheek russet affecting > 2 sq cm

.

CUCUMBER
General appearance criteria
• Uniform dark green skin, whitish
to pale green flesh, small white seeds
• Smooth to slightly ribbed skin completely over wrapped with food grade protective shrink wrap
• Uniformly firm, smooth, thin skin, slightly ridged skin with rough texture along ridges
• Long and slender, straight to slight banana shape (< 30mm gap to straight edge)
• Firm bodied, not excessively large
• Small/Medium: Length 250 – 320mm. Girth: 30 – 45mm (June to September)
• Medium/Large: Length 300 – 370mm. Girth: 35 – 50mm (all year)
• Large: Length 360 – 400mm. Girth: 35 – 50mm (October to May)
• No mixed pallets permitted
Major defects
(Must not exceed 2 per cent of consignment)
• Evidence of live insects
• Fungal or bacterial rots
• Yellow spots or skin blistering (mosaic viruses)
• Cuts, splits, holes, cracks or wounds that break the skin
• Obvious bruises or soft damaged areas
• Wrinkled, softened or shrivelled skin, or “pinching” at blossom end (dehydration)
Minor defects
(Less than 2 defects per item)
• Shallow (> 2mm deep) pest damage, eg. chewed, scarred areas affecting > 0.5 sq cm
• Dark coloured rub or weather marks affecting aggregate > 0.5 sq cm
• Silver or light beige scuff marks affecting in aggregate > 2 sq cm of surface area

.

CARROT
General appearance criteria
• Mid to bright orange skin and flesh
• Fresh, bright colour, tops removed, minimal remaining stalk (< 10mm), no secondary roots
• Firm with relatively smooth skin, crisp and juicy, not yellowed or dry and woody, slightly sweet taste (not bitter)
• Straight, conical, with even taper, rounded to slightly rounded shoulder according to variety. Uniform with consignment
• Length: 150 – 230mm with a maximum range per consignment of 60mm
• Diameter: 33 – 45mm with a maximum range per consignment of 8mm
Major defects
(Must not exceed 2 per cent
of consignment)
• Obvious live insects
• Fungal or bacterial rots
• Distortion or mottling due to virus infection
• Flaking or peeling areas
• Soft or limp carrots
• Dark marks
Minor defects
(Less than 2 defects per item)
• Superficial (>2mm deep) bruises affecting > 2 sq cm, no deep bruises
• With shaved or chipped areas
• Healed cuts/scratches > 30 per cent length from stalk or > 2mm deep or wide (not removable by one pass peeling)
• Light rub/scuff marks
• Green or purple shoulders affecting > 10 per cent length from stalk
• Healed growth cracks > 50mm long or > 2mm deep or wide

Source: http://www.weeklytimesnow.com.au/news/national/food-waste-shapes-up-as-a-national-scandal/news-story/8bef06ef1b7f731cbe8a80620fbd6b57

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Judy says:

    Just goes to show people with the power to purchase (bullying for want of another word) have lost all traces of what I would call ‘COMMONSENSE’. Who really cares what shape a potato or carrot is, as long as it isn’t bad or has grubs etc I’m sure the greater majority of people would buy it!!!

    Like

  2. Helen Bell says:

    Instead of throwing the food away why not give it to the charities or food banks or arrange to sell the produce at a cheaper rate and help the people in hard times. I myself would buy the food if it was for sale.

    Like

  3. Debbie says:

    We as consumers do this to ourselves. How many times have you picked through a bin of loose produce to pick out the best looking and feeling items? We have done this to ourselves and it will be up to us the consumer to get the power back. You take home a range of funny shaped fruit and veg and see if your family especially your children will eat it. I bet they steer well away from it. And if you suggest to make something from it they will most likely still tell you no thanks. And as for all the date specific foods people are so scared of food now if it is a day over date “lets just throw it out”. It sickens me to the core that we have become such a wasteful society with ridiculous food laws. I understand why they have come about but as always if we think about it rules are made based on the actions of a minority that affect the majority. SHAME SHAME SHAME

    Like

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