UN served five-course meal from EU’s rejects

A five-course dinner made up of fruit and vegetables rejected by UK and European supermarkets has been held for hundreds of Environmental Ministers, high ranking diplomats and UN delegates from around the world, at a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) meeting in Kenya today (19 February).

The zero waste reception was held in support of UNEP’s ‘Think.Eat.Save. Reduce Your Footprint’ initiative that calls for global action against food waste.

Launched by UNEP, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and partners such as Feeding the 5,000 and WRAP UK last month, the campaign urges consumers and food retailers to ‘dramatically cut’ the 1.3 billion tonnes of food lost or wasted each year.

Tristram Stuart, British food waste author, campaigner and Founder of Feeding the 5000, reportedly visited farms and pack houses across Kenya to source more than 1.7 tonnes of rejected fruit and vegetables for the meal and for donation to local charities.

Waste of good food ‘endemic of food production systems’

According to Think.Eat.Save, the food had been grown for the export market only to be rejected – largely due to ‘stringent standards over appearance or orders being changed after vegetables had been harvested’.

Food that has been rejected is usually either sold on the local market or donated, but, according to the campaign, the quantities are ‘so large’ that local markets cannot handle the volume and ‘so much of it is either left to rot or fed to livestock – prompting resentment amongst Kenyan farmers who must bear the costs themselves’.

Stuart commented: “It’s a scandal that so much food is wasted in a country where millions of people go hungry. The waste of perfectly edible ‘ugly’ vegetables is endemic in our food production systems and symbolises our negligence.

“This shocking waste also presents us with a huge opportunity…This dinner, and the many Feeding the 5000 events we have run, aims to change attitudes, and highlight best practices, by showing that there is absolutely nothing wrong with this food we so casually throw away.”

UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner, said: “No economic, environmental or ethical argument can be made to justify the extent of food waste and loss currently happening in the world.

“With this dinner we are demonstrating to retailers, consumers and policymakers who can push for change that the astonishing amount of food we throw away is not just edible and nutritious, but also delicious.”

It is the first in a series of dinners to mark the launch of the Think.Eat.Save campaign – with events also planned for New York and Turin.

Global food waste

According to a report released by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in January, between 30 and 50 per cent of all food produced around the world is never consumed by humans - less than a quarter of which would lift ninety million people in the world out of malnourishment.

“Together, we can reverse this unacceptable trend and improve lives. 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,” said José Graziano da Silva, FAO Director-General.

“This is more than the total net food production of Sub-Saharan Africa, and would be sufficient to feed the estimated 870 million people hungry in the world.”

Stuart hopes that by raising this issue with global Environment Ministers will help persuade supermarkets to change their standards, and “help to increase on-farm incomes and food availability where it is needed the most.”

Chef Ray Cournede, from Nairobi’s prestigious Windsor Hotel, used the food to cook delegates a meal including grilled sweet corn tamales and yellow lentil dal. He also prepared mango chutney and candied fruit peels to show ways in which fruits can be preserved and used when in season.

Delegates were also encouraged to limit food waste by taking home leftovers in doggy bags.

Read more about the Think.Eat.Save.Reduce Your Footprint campaign.