This week on Utalk, a question from Olivier in Brussels: “90 million tonnes of food are thrown away in the European Union every year. What can we do in our daily lives to avoid food waste?”
Julie Frère, spokeswoman for the Belgian consumer organisation Test-Achats, answers:
“What can I do, as a consumer, to limit this waste — knowing that it can also happen further up the retail chain? Well first of all, to avoid impulse purchases at the supermarket, one rule is: don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry, make a list, and try to stick to it.
When you’re buying fresh food like meat that you plan to eat right away or the next day, there’s no point choosing a product with a long-running expiration date. Don’t discard fruit and vegetable with imperfections or odd shapes, they’re perfectly fine to eat. And it’s always preferable to buy food in bulk because that way you can choose exactly the amount that you plan to eat.
Once you get home, organise your fridge properly. For instance, meat and fish must be stored in the coldest part to be well preserved. Apply a “first in, first out” rule, which means eating first what has been in the fridge the longest. When you cook at home and you have leftovers that you won’t be able to eat the next day, freeze them immediately.
One last tip: don’t confuse the “best before” date (the date until when the food retains its expected quality) with the stricter “use-by” date (the date until when the food can be eaten safely). For example, you can still eat biscuits even past their “best by” date.
When you eat out in a restaurant, don’t be afraid to ask for the leftovers in a doggy bag.
And if you’re organising a party with a big meal, try to find out in advance if you’ll be able to give any leftovers to a charity.”
You can visit the European Commission’s web pages for more information on food waste and how to prevent it.
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