UK consumers should start storing groceries

Rach: "Educational work is necessary that comes close to penetrance"

The tomatoes have a few dents, the potatoes have sprouted easily, and you are not hungry for the leftovers from yesterday's meal - such foods often end up in the trash in private households. TV and star chef Christian Rach explains how you can avoid such food waste with simple tricks and why it has a great effect on the climate and the environment.

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Around twelve million tons of food are disposed of in Germany every year. According to the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, a large part of the food waste is generated in private households: 6.1 million tons end up in the garbage there, which is around 75 kilograms per person per year.

The TV and star chef Christian Rach takes a stand against this food waste and explains how he believes one can raise awareness about nutrition.

What was the last food you threw away?

Christian Rach: A clear distinction has to be made between foods that are still edible and foods that are no longer. I recently made a potato gratin and the peels went in the trash. Also, last week I bought a net of mussels that I wanted to prepare for friends. At home I noticed that many mussels that I hadn't seen before were broken or opened. I know the risk of mussels and since I had guests I didn't want to take that. So I had to dispose of this food too.

Most of the food waste is generated in private households. Do you have an explanation for this?

Often it is comfort, but most of the time there is a lack of awareness. We've made TV programs about food waste before, but it takes a long time for it to penetrate people's consciousness and then also induce an active turnaround in action. Enlightenment and educational work is necessary that comes close to penetrance, but this is the only way to achieve improvement. There is and cannot be a law that tells us what else we have to eat. The legislature can introduce guidelines. The decision whether to follow them is up to the individual.

There is the best before date - or best before date for short - as a guideline for the consumer ...

When the best-before date was introduced, it suggested a high level of consumer security. Today it has become just a tool for producers that shows until when they can guarantee color fastness, quality accuracy, optics and other features. Ultimately, that has Best before datenothing to do with the consumption date.

What would be more useful than the best before date?

We complain a lot about the British and their Brexit (laughs), but we could learn a bit about this issue: The British label their food with "best before". One could translate that as a use-by date. Such data is useful on perishable foods such as minced meat, because for health reasons you should not eat it after exceeding it. Such information is crazy on dried pasta, sugar or salt. The quality hardly changes over the years.

Do you have a general tip for consumers on how they can determine whether a food is still edible without paying attention to the best before date?

Smell, taste and look closely at the food. If something is really rotten, throw it away. If the best before date has passed, but the food works perfectly, then it does not belong in the bin for a long time. Trust your senses! The body is equipped with all sensors and alarm systems. Unfortunately, unlike our grandparents, most people can no longer distinguish between good and bad mold. Therefore, it is better not to eat moldy things, because it is a fungus that runs through the food in the finest veins.

What other tips do you have to avoid food waste in private households?

Write down a shopping list and think carefully beforehand: Who is buying what and why? You should also begin to understand your refrigerator. Sounds easy, but many haven't made it to this day. There are clear guidelines on where to store what - and what doesn't belong in the refrigerator at all. The air circulation in the refrigerator is crucial for the freshness and shelf life of the food. Just read the instructions.

Every food has its ideal place in the refrigerator. If your food is properly arranged, it not only stays fresh longer, it can also save electricity costs. We show how it's done.

At discount stores, the shelves are often full of large packs at low prices. Does that encourage food waste?

You can't say that across the board. If six hungry mouths need to be taken care of in a household, a large pack makes sense. Right now, in times of Corona and short-time work, many have to pay attention to the money. One shouldn't judge cheap goods. But every consumer should try to shop smart. For example, I go to the market at 1 p.m. on Saturday afternoon. The traders do not want to keep their fresh goods over the weekend, as many products would spoil. Ergo you get good quality at low prices. And that does not only apply to the market, but also to the supermarkets in another form: Pay attention to the offers, compare prices and quality.

What can supermarkets change?

The big discounters and supermarkets have already recognized and taken up the trend of the population: regional goods are in demand. In Usedom there are different things on the shelves than in Heilbronn and that's a good thing. Of course there is the Italian pasta, which is the same everywhere. But regionality is a key to avoiding long transport routes. Corona has shown it: We don't need the asparagus from Chile at all. We are right in the middle of the harvest and have all the best quality products on site.

Food waste also occurs in gastronomy. Where should one start most likely here?

The margins in supermarkets, especially owner-operated ones, are incredibly tight. The same goes for gastronomy: everything that has to be thrown away here reduces the already low income. Just grumbling at the restaurateurs is boring. In my opinion, we have two major construction sites: the households and the producers. With the latter, we really have zero transparency. There is no obligation for manufacturers to publish what and how much is thrown away in the harvest or production process. My aim is not to pillory a producer, but to find a solution. The second construction site is the private households. Around 60 percent of avoidable food waste is generated here.

Should there be more crooked vegetables and "B-goods" on the supermarket shelves?

Whether the carrot is crooked or not makes no difference in quality. We are just too used to the fact that the apple is waxed and shiny and the carrot is straight as a pin. There has to be a rethink and there has to be consumers who don't care what the fruit and vegetables look like. On the other hand, a carrot with two branches is also harder to peel and it takes more time. One solution would be to offer two kinds of carrots in the supermarket: The carrots with blemishes are then sold at a lower price than the picture-perfect carrot. That would be a win-win situation and no product would have to be thrown away or used as animal feed.

At the moment you can often still find edible food in the garbage cans of the supermarkets. This is how "containers" came about: people gain access to the bins and help themselves to the still good food free of charge. But that's not legal.

You have to break a lance for Rewe, Edeka and whatever they are called: Food that is about to expire and was thrown away ten years ago is now often available at low prices. You can find them nicely staged in the sales room and not in the container. If this were to take place on a larger scale, the container would be reduced to absurdity. The fact that the supermarkets often dispose of instead of donating is due to the legal situation. It is too risky and complicated because you are responsible for your donation. It's different in the USA, where retail chains have been taken out of liability. In this way, you can easily give food that is at the end of its best-before date or has a dent to non-profit organizations. In this country, too, the legislature is called upon to avoid such food waste.

Is it even clear to the consumer what impact food waste has?

Food waste is a waste of resources: How many liters of water does the tomato need to be ripe? How much grain do the pigs eat until they are fully grown? Animals emit gases, forests are deserted, arable land is cultivated to produce a product. We see the little piece that we throw away, but there is a whole cycle behind it. By the time a product, regardless of whether it is of vegetable or animal origin, is on our plate, it will have consumed an incredible amount of energy and resources. And all this waste of energy has a major impact on the environment, on the global climate. We can break this cycle of waste if we change our behavior and throw away less food.

A campaign like "Too Good To Go" is a way of reaching out to consumers with information. How else do you make people understand what food waste means?

It is a political task. Men and women should all work equally and realize themselves. That is good and important. In the past, knowledge about food, its properties and processing was passed on in the family, but that usually no longer takes place. The state must now take on this task. What does white flour do? Which fats are healthy and which are not? Children need to learn about the effects of food on the body. Not only from the health aspect, but also from an economic perspective. Sixty percent of hospital admissions are somehow related to diet. Federalism has advantages, we saw that in the Corona period. In the education However, I say: We need a uniform subject on nutrition in all federal states in order to create awareness among the young generation. It is not enough with five television programs and three appeals, but an educational offensive is needed that makes exactly that the topic. The key is education, education, and education again.