27 comments on “Sounds about right

  1. For all of these food waste stories I find myself thinking “so what?” Isn’t it proof of the miracle of capitalism and markets that we can afford to throw a million bananas away every day.

    Just think, with the miracle of state planning we might get that number down to, say, 14m a day.

  2. Older readers may remember a stall, or rather three stalls, in Walthamstow Market that sold, sightly under-ripe hands of bananas for n, perfectly ripe one for n plus and sweet-smelling, fly-attracting black ones for n minus. Those always sold out.

  3. As a happily divorced man (twice) I buy my own greens and fruit and shit. If the item is damaged on the outside it is always, inevitably, invariably damaged on the inside too. Sometimes yeah it’s a small little tiny visible bit that you can cut out, assuming of course that the rottenness is confined to the discoloured area you can see. But for the same price I can get an undamaged item that will yield 100% and offers higher food safety too.

    I am the successful outcome of evolutionary ancestors who learned to inspect food before consumption. The greedy gutses who didn’t care and ate it anyway despite obvious contamination, became evolutionary dead ends.

    The joke being that the people commanding us to eat dubious veggies &c. full of pathogenic bacteria, are simultaneously ordering us not to eat perfect fruit that may have microscopic pesticide residues that have been tested safe for human consumption, never mind the plant’s natural defences that are just as mutagenic as any pesticide.

  4. I have bananas in my garden. I either have no bananas or thirty kilos of the damn things. All arrive at the same time, and don’t keep for more than a couple of days in this climate. Most get given away. Waste is sort of built in with bananas so it’s a cherry picked example. Chose something else.

  5. It’s interesting that they’re describing them as ‘edible’, for once. Normally they talk about wasted food in bulk without reference to whether it’s actually gone off. Then they claim it’s worth the same amount as was actually paid for it, which obviously isn’t true.

  6. These stories remind me when I was once at a circular convenience shop once about to be served. The person in front of me presented at the checkout a rather wilted bell pepper and said ,,, “how much will you discount this pepper?…its all wrinkled” The cashier didn’t know and summoned the manager. A young 20 something guy in a shirt and tie turned up. He seemed stressed and put upon. The cashier repeated the question and presented the pepper. The man took it, examined its wrinklyness, frowned, then looked at the customer, looked back at his cashier ripped the pepper in half and threw the two halves in a bin, to a gasp from the customer, and said to the cashier, to my ears at least it a paternal voice “if it isn’t Fresh we don’t sell it”.

  7. wat dabney – “It’s all the radiation I’m worried about.”

    Rightly so. A single banana (a Banana Equivlant Dose, or BED) is the equivalent of 0.1 µSv. A lethal dose is, more or less, 35,000,000 BED (3500 mSv).

    So 5 billion bananas a year is roughly enough to kill 150 people. I think it is time to panic. Won’t someone think of the children?

  8. Dear Mr Worstall

    How much of this is down to ‘use by’ dates? I have observed teenagers and 20 somethings check the date on items and refuse to eat them on the grounds they are one day out of date. This includes things like cheese, smoked salmon, frozen pizzas and desserts full of e numbers.

    If milk passes the sniff test, the furry bits can be pinched off the bread, or pared from the cheese – it’s edible. I once had an industrial yogurt three months past it use by date which no-one in the office would touch: the lid wasn’t blown, it looked, smelt and tasted OK, so was edible.

    DP

  9. Jeez – 10%? 1 in 10?

    Let’s consider how consumers actually buy bananas. The balance is to get a bunch off the shelf that is:
    – just about not quite ripe enough just yet so that they can be just about eaten now, but won’t go completely black before next weekend
    – about the right number. 7 too many, 3 too few. Sometimes you buy a bunch of 6, sometimes 3 because you can’t get the right greenness in the right size bunch.

    That we collectively get this right to within one banana in two bunches is actually flipping brilliant. Actually, one banana wasted per capita per month. That’s extraordinarily accurate.

    What would the proposed solution be that might improve that be?

  10. I like Julia’s solution; but like most households, our freezer is already full to bursting point with last year’s month’s leftovers.

  11. about the right number. 7 too many, 3 too few. Sometimes you buy a bunch of 6, sometimes 3 because you can’t get the right greenness in the right size bunch

    What? You never split bunches?

  12. We buy stuff with a longish sell-by date unless it’s for use that day, but I’ll happily eat cooked meat several days past, and yogurts weeks past. Mouldy cheese isn’t a problem – I prefer blue cheese. The other thing is saving leftovers. We do that too. My daughter has recently bought a house with her fiancé, and they were entertaining his parents. She was going to save the leftovers for her lunch next day but her future MIL chucked it in the bin. She was horrified.

  13. Like Charlie Suet, I seem to recall that when they price up food thrown away, the bone of,say, a leg of lamb is priced at the same rate as a joint with meat on it.

    Obviously, a leg bone is worth nothing, but if you calculate the price of the bone this way, it’s worth a couple of quid. Enough to make you feel guilty, which is the point of the exercise.

    Really, society has transformed itself into my grandma: eat your greens; don’t drink; an apple a day keeps the doctor away.

    Sadly, she smoked 20 a day and passed away prematurely at the age of 93.

  14. Where did they throw the bananas? Even if they were all thrown strategically to trip up Jehovah’s Witnesses and Party canvassers, 1.4 million is not enough.

  15. “What? You never split bunches?”

    Ridiculous suggestion: we’re not barbarians. That way lies the path to anarchy.

  16. Wrap banana in bubble wrap and place on a bag in the fridge and take out day befor required, they last forever. It also stops the gas ripening other fruit too quickly.

  17. “The other thing is saving leftovers.” I’m sure we would if there ever were any.

  18. Roué le Jour,

    Is there no one willing to purchase 30 kilos of bananas?

    Several years ago I was playing an online game with an Egyptian kids. His farther’s property had an abundance of mangoes. The kid was complaining about how bad they would smell. At this point I had to ask why they would smell badly. It turns out that nobody bothered to consider picking and selling the mangoes. The father had a cushy government position and couldn’t be bothered. The son was too lazy to pick them himself. After I pointed out that there were a lot of poor Egyptians that would love to get paid anything just to have a job he finally figured out the problem. The mangoes were picked and sent to a juice company.

    Things almost didn’t work out. The father was extremely upset that there were poor people on his property. So upset my cohort was going to lose his computer. £250,000 Egyptian in profit, roughly £10,000 UK, changed the father’s mind.

    Unfortunately I do not know what became of the kid. Once the mango crisis was solved we got into a conversation about how Egypt was going to change due to Arab Spring. Although he was wrong on that point hopefully he learned the economic lesson, don’t let perfectly good product go to waste when someone is willing to pay you more than it costs to hire a poor person to deliver the product.

  19. What great fun I could have deciding whether Rebecca Smithers’ food is edible.

    “Yeah, that’s fine. Go ahead and eat it. Don’t worry about that grey, fuzzy stuff.”

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