Western Asia plays major role in reducing food waste - GulfToday

Western Asia plays major role in reducing food waste

Time to rethink our relationship to waste and land use

Photo has been used for illustrative purposes.

Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter

Public and private institutions, civil society and international networks in the 12-nation West Asia are playing a major role in reducing food waste.

Their efforts are via awareness campaigns, collection of excess food and left-overs for the needy, as well as the forging of cooperation and partnerships to increase technical know-how and support, capacity-building and expertise towards the entire spectrum of efficient waste management, according to a recently-released document from the United Nations Environment Programme-West Asia Office (UNEP-WAO).

“The State of Food Waste in West Asia” also demonstrates that the over 284 million inhabitants in Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the UAE, and Yemen, have to be guided and encouraged more, regarding wise and responsible purchasing and consumption behaviour and patterns, vis-a-vis hoarding.

With the report is the 2020 online survey conducted across West Asia – except in Qatar and Yemen – which reflects that among 114 women and 86 men (200), 96 per cent (192), 91 per cent (182), 90 per cent (180), and 75 per cent, respectively, dispose off food due to smell, taste, expiry date, and appearance (ugliness).

Of the 200 respondents, 20.5 (41) claimed fresh fruits, vegetables and salads contribute a lot to their food waste.  Thirty-three per cent (66) admitted to panic buying particularly during the first few months of the COVID-19 restrictions and whenever these are re-imposed.

Because of the pandemic, more unwanted/ spoiled/expired food is being pushed down the bin.

Remote work and stay-at-home limitations make them “over-produce in the kitchen.” Thus, more leftovers pile up and consequently are thrown away.

The 200 respondents are either high school/technical school to post-graduate degree holders with monthly salaries of $500 (Dhs1,836.60) to over $5,000 (Dhs18,366.00), and whose family size is from two to over nine members

Report authors American University of Beirut-Department of Nutrition and Food Services associate professor Dr Mohamad Abiad and Lebanese American University-Natural Sciences Department/Food Science and Technology associate professor Dr. Hussein Hassan wrote: “Awareness campaigns can address the expiry date criterion by encouraging people to practise the first-to-expire principle in food handling, to perform a monthly inventory of their stocks of food in the kitchen to highlight the near expiry date asap, prepare a list of grocery shopping, to buy only what they need and not be tempted to purchase goods on sale or bargain.”

They said food banks are the proper channels for the non-spoilage of excess food stocks and the near expiry.

Sharjah housewife Mildred Cruz said: “Food should not be wasted. That is good stewardship towards God’s provision to us. Our family makes it a point to plan our meals which means estimating the considerable quantity that is enough for everyone.”

Proud Sharjah homemaker Cynthia Fernandes said, “Re-mixing” left-overs saves a lot of time and money.  Doing so helps all efforts towards environmental sustainability.

“Excess bread can become bread pudding, breadcrumbs and bread saute dish. Add vegetables or fried/grilled chicken/meat to soggy chips/fries for another dish. Leftover vegetables/meat could be (the toppings) for pizza dough, bread slices, chapatti, nan, and khooboos.”

According to UNEP and the Food and Agriculture Organisation, food loss is the “decrease in edible food in quantity and quality occuring during the production and distribution segments of the food supply chain.”

Food waste is “food fit for human consumption that has been removed from the food supply chain either by choice or because it has spoiled or expired, attributed to economic, social behaviour, poor stock management or neglect usually at the retail and consumer levels.”

These international entities said global food loss and food waste have resulted in 820 million worldwide being undernourished. Household food waste estimation in West Asia, where “food is frequently prepared on a large scale, especially during social events such as weddings, births and deaths (to signify) wealth and status,” ranges from 75 to 163kg per capita generation year.

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