Roughly one-third of all food produced in the world is wasted each year. That’s equivalent to over 550 billion euros worth of food chucked away in the developed world alone. To put that into more (if you’ll forgive me) easily-digestible terms: every year, consumers in the rich world bin a quantity equal to the entire food production of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Over the years, we’ve had plenty of comments sent in by readers suggesting ways of cutting food waste. To get a response to their ideas, we approached Massimo Bottura, decorated chef and proprietor of the 3 Michelin-starred restaurant Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy.

Bottura has made it his mission to tackle the issue of food waste, founding the non-profit organisation Food for Soul to help empower communities to fight food waste through social inclusion, and recently publishing the thought-provoking book Bread is Gold, presenting recipes from over 50 of the world’s best chefs using ordinary ingredients that many would consider “left-overs” or things to be thrown away. Highlights include recipes for home-made banana peel chutney, strawberry gazpacho, pasta with popcorn pesto, and burnt lime soup.

So, what do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from Franz, who thinks the secret is to teach children the real value of food, since (Franz believes) it’s too late for older generations. That seems overly gloomy about us old’uns, perhaps. But is he at least right about the importance of teaching children to understand the worth of the food we eat?

Next up, we had a comment from Carlos, who thinks we need to change the stigma against ‘ugly’ fruit and vegetables. Carlos believes that too much produce is being wasted because supermarkets refuse to stock items that don’t meet our artificially high standards of what fruit and veggies should look like. Is he right?

Next, we had a comment from Enzo, who thinks food should be more expensive (or, at least, the real cost of cheap food – such as the burden placed on public healthcare by junk food – should be properly factored into the retail price). Would people value their food more if it were costlier?

Finally, we had a comment from Vytautas, who says it is his right to waste food if he wants to because he paid for it. Is he right? What would Massimo Bottura say to him?

The interview with Massimo Bottura is the latest in our #Ask series, which recently included the CEO of the World Bank, Kristalina Georgieva; European Central Bank President Mario Draghi; President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, and the European Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly.

How can we get people to stop wasting so much food? Would people throw out less food if it was more expensive? How can we teach children the value of the food we eat? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!



31 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. Maria Lunderius

    I do value food and it pains me that in Spain I waste so much of it… due to so called “family packaging”. Spaniards seem all to live in huge families – according to grocers. Say I buy a package of strawberries- they get spoiled before I manage – at best to eat half of them, usually about 1/4. Everything sold packed for a family of at least four people with big appetites. Not so in Sweden, when – at least in big cities, one person households are a norm. I hate to be forced to freeze more than half of my food purchases: fruits, veggies, fish, meat. Noy even my three cats manage to eat enough to not waste food.

    • Patricia

      You can try and go to the grocery store in your neighborhood and ask for the food in your desired quantities instead of going to the supermarket and buying a package from which you’re going to throw away half of it + the package itself. That way you’d help the small businesses, help the environment by not using unnecessary packaging, and not waste food :)

  2. catherine benning

    How can we get ‘people’ to stop wasting so much food?

    Which ‘people’ would this be DE?

    The food wasters the EU and the world in general should be attacking and holding to ransom for food waste is big money supermarkets. How much of their daily ‘sell by date’ produce do they dump after closing time? How does that stack up financially world wide on a daily basis? Do tell us all.

    Imagine these organisations would do this rather than distribute it to the food banks or the starving, in any form they can. Oh, no, that could reduce profits. The garbage bin is the place for their health giving nutritious food. How about turning on those few ‘billionaires’ who run these organisations and start taxing them heavily on the mounds of nutrition they don’t sell but throw away for us all to foot the bill. Give them a little incentive in order for the tax payer to get just a tad back from those who bleed them dry.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QLqkV8cP4xs

    And more

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EaCpsxk0PQQ

  3. La F Ham

    Well, in the developed world I’d say the primary reason why food is lost is due to the cost (too pricey for some) of certain perishables that results in dumping. In the developing world I’d say that where large volumes of food are being lost is in the inefficiency and lack of good transportation services (ie roads, chiller trucks etc). Still, I’m sure there are some picky kids who hopefully have parents with the commonsense to tell them to eat their brussel sprouts

  4. Enrico

    Buttiamo via il cibo per ignoranza. Una volta c’era l’economia domestica, e non c’erano i frigoriferi. Le pietanze in avanzo non vengono recuperate, ed ecco lo spreco. Il resto del gioco lo fanno le date di scadenza messe lì apposta.

  5. Andrej

    Educational campaigns to raise awareness of the problem.
    Collection centres for unwanted food.
    Distribution of about-to-expire food to homeless people.

  6. Nando

    This question is too vague and leads to no solution.
    But the problem is very simple.
    There is plenty of data that tells us where, what and who. There is data that tells us how much is wasted by each of these. With that you simply make plans, laws and directives to address the issue in a very pointed way.
    One can start here:
    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/jan/10/half-world-food-waste
    Here is more data:
    https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/wasted-food-IP.pdf
    And more:
    http://ec.europa.eu/food/safety/food_waste/stop/index_en.htm
    With this data you can then address the question again.

  7. Andrew

    Stop so many ready meals and pay the farmers a proper amount then charge the people proper amounts. If it costs nothing then people will think nothing of it

  8. Satsuma

    stop mass producing meat in factory farms, for a start!

  9. Julia

    In some areas in the UK food waste had to be separate from refuse. If you combine that practice with worm composting, food waste can be turned into fertiliser. For supermarkets they could additionally donate food or sell it at a huge discount.

  10. Patricia

    only buy what you need; use past sell buy date if still fresh; luckily retired so can shop as needed rather than a big weekly/longer interval shop; buy local produce wherever possible;

  11. Paulo

    Do not waste food in your own meals! Simple!

  12. Carlos Santos

    Educating the consumer is a long and gruesome task, but it has to be made.

    Campaigns against domestical food waste are essential to fight the 50% of food waste indicated by Timmermans, as well as fighting the stigma against ‘ugly’ foods. Farmers throw away approximately 70% of their crops due to the requirements of the market – requirements of the consumer – related to the image of the food.

    Parties/events held by supermarket chains with spare food for homeless, people in difficulties. A win-win situation as it would raise popularity on the organizer.

    Restaurants making ‘last deals of the day’, resulting in less food waste.

    Moreover, regulations could take place in order to prevent this phenomenon. France was the first country in the world to forbid foodwaste in supermarkets, by donating their near-expired products to charity.

    Many initiatives can be carried out with no difficulty and with possible gains. We just need to think.

  13. David B

    This is the classic area where ‘choice’ creates the problem. For some reason we have allowed ourselves to accept as normal a choice of virtually every fruit and vegetable known to mankind to be presented on the supermarket shelves every day of the year. We don’t need a choice of 16 types of orange or 12 types of green bean, most of which are transported half way across the globe to satisfy this peculiar ‘need’. Quite apart from the poor nutritional value of most of this excess, the environmental consequences we create (and accept) suggest that we have been in the process of going increasingly crazy for decades.

    • Alex

      Don’t think for a second that you have the authority to decide for me what I need and want.

  14. Steven

    Another beginning would be to start a regional agricultural research initiative on the effects of pesticides on the agricultural microbiome. If a consortium were formed to map the microbiome of the most common vegetables/fruits etc. and supermarkets were given a small incentive to turn over their food for research, we may be able to quickly map the microbiome of different foods and how they are affected by different pesticides. That would then lead to the use of moving out the pesticides and “farming healthy microbiota to control disease” which could be done on-site at the farms, reducing their costs (for petrochemical pesticides) and producing healthier food that doesn’t taste like pesticide residue. The farming community would be pulled into sustainable farming, reduced costs and using over-production as “microbiota substrate”. The coordinating body would of this entire effort would be food banks/microbiome research which would distribute a large amount of this “free research material” to food banks. It is a complicated solution but it is “rewiring” the industrial food machine…….

  15. Diana

    It all should start from within. Each of us individually needs a global self-awareness and responsibility for our own consumption; self analysis in terms of how much we consume and how much do we actually need to live the life and be fulfilled. Thereby we can reduce the demand, production and waste.

  16. Yulia

    By mainstream education and changing advertising paradigm.
    Also; If agreements/regulations could be passed through to provide missleading information about products to be consumed, EU can honestly inform the people about the composition, destination groep, etc. etc. … and the necesity to understand waste! MORAL (by 3xample) mainstream education! Really not that difficult! Also encouraging people to buy fresh and without packaging…supporting local farmers to invest is such fresh packageless products. Providing a second life to products and educating owners thereabout…

    • Nefeli

      Totally agree. The French goverment took a big step by forcing the retailers to donate the food.
      But in my opinion it is only a first step. Education and culture should teach us to not throw food. We are after all half of the problem.

  17. Dan

    Produce better quality food, let go the “E” s and all the chemicals, stop the stress and give people better life.

    • Nefeli

      How exactly do the preservatives help us to not throw so much food away? Taking them out would only limit the shelf life of food.
      How is stress a primer factor?

  18. Chris

    Its about time we shift from cost economy to quality and value. Changing prices on dummy tastless products means nothing. Better shift to fewer but real nutricious food and a modern approach of traditional agriculture.

  19. Skender

    This is a matter of family and school education and not the price.What about people who dont earn enough money?Im sure they dont waste a food,rich does so ..I think we should educate our kids ajd parents and not make them harder to buy food

  20. Alex

    This is one of the most disgustingly patronizing pieces I’ve read recently.
    Mr. Bottura would do good to get off the high horse he climbed upon.

  21. Zal

    This is very interesting article, and on an area I am very passionate about. I would be curious as to whether others see this as a global issue, or a cultural issue (i.e. do you find American’s are prone wasting food as opposed to other regions in the world?)

  22. Kate

    Perhaps we should alter the way items are packaged. Buying for a single person or a couple rather than a family of 4 or more can be difficult.

  23. Stephen

    Smaller portions served dining, out, More Take Home, Been taking home leftover for years & fulfills diets, had some ribs from SuperbowlSunday in Feb 2 to the end of March & still tasty from Rendevous resturant in Memphis TN, so it can be done IF freeze or refrig leftovers, Educate Food Service staff, host RD in resturant chain, etc. More can be done& use food for Compost.

  24. Ha

    It’s his right to waste food that he bought but that doesn’t mean that the state cannot or should not “nudge” Vytautas towards behaviours that are more sustainable. For example, the waste of foods that have been produced at a high CO2 cost or the production of which has harmed animals should be minimized, e.g. by taxing it. Let’s see if you buy 30 chicken nuggets, half of which you’d throw away anyway, if they cost one euro per piece.

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