Thursday, March 12, 2015

Food Waste and Sustainability - Reducing Waste with Food Safety in Mind

 A UK group called WRAP ( Waste & Resources Action Programme ) issued a report on food waste and the impact on the economy as well as on the environment.  According to the report, the cost of wasted food in the US is about $162 billion.  This waste is generated throughout  the food chain, from the field to the kitchen table, and in a time when many go hungry, there is a need to put waste reduction controls in place. 

The NY Times published a series of articles on waste reduction controls for the consumers and restaurants.  One is providing tips for utilizing food that would otherwise be wasted and another on being more efficient in the kitchen (articles below). 

For food processors and retailers, there is the Food Waste Reduction Alliance.   A nice publication on their website is a Best Practices Guide.  This includes information on food donations.

There will be an increasing emphasis on reducing food waste, especially as there are many people who do not get enough food

Regardless of where those controls are instituted, one important factor that must be part of any food reduction control activity is food safety.  As we try to store food longer, or utilize foods or parts of food previously thought of as unusable, food safety can be an issue.

One concern is collecting raw food / kitchen waste for composting.  Often times, raw foods will have pathogens like Salmonella and Campylobacter associated with them, chicken skin for example.  Cooked foods can also be a concern.  Cooks foods, with no or very little bacterial flora, can serve as a growth media for spore-forming pathogens that survived the cooking (such as Clostridium perfringens or Clostridium botulinum) or for environmental pathogens such as Listeria or Staphylococcus.  There are however, spoilage bacteria that may work to prevent this.  A study of kitchen waste has shown that common spoilage bacteria, primarily lactic acid bacteria, are often in our collection points and prohibit or eliminate any food safety issues.  This is not to say that kitchen waste shouldn't be handled and stored properly.

A more important control though is proper composting.  Proper composting will eliminate pathogens, so it is important to do this prior to using compost in a garden.

Molds are one hazard to consider when utilizing food or food waste.  As food is handled and/or store for a long time, or when it is handled and restored, mold can be introduced, and then grow during storage. A number of mold species can produce mycotoxins and these mycotoxins are dangerous in that they can cause a wide broad range of health issues including being carcinogenic, mutagenic, and having harmful to organs such as the liver.  It is also important to note that mycotoxins are heat resistant, and will not be eliminated by cooking.

People will often try to salvage food with mold on it.  In general, once a food becomes moldy, it should be discarded.  This includes fruits and vegetables.  If within a lot of fruits of vegetables, items are showing mold, the effected product should be sorted out immediately.  It is also important to note that mold spores may have deposited on the good product from the mold growing nearby, and that good food may show signs of mold spoilage in a matter of days.  Therefore, you want to use that salvaged product sooner rather than later.

An issue with long term storage of refrigerated foods is Listeria.  Unlike many of the other bacterial pathogens, Listeria can grow at refrigeration temperatures.   This is a especially a concern for soft chesses and deli meats.  These are two items that should not be used once the product has reached the end of its stated shelf-life.  It is also important to keep you refrigerator clean.

Manufacturer-established shelf-life dates have come under fire as a big cause for much of the food waste that is seen.  True, many of these dates are based upon quality, or best quality, and have little or no relation to safety, with the exception of deli meats or dairy products such as soft cheeses.   My input to this is that rather to argue about whether product should be thrown out by the end of that date, is to put the emphasis on using the product before it gets to that point.  Perhaps it would be better to focus  on the consumer better utilizing food.  Better utilization would entail better determining the amount of food that can be used within a given amount of time, such as a week or the time between shopping trips.  This way, perishables will be used before they go bad.  Better utilization also includes rotating food on the shelf, so that we don't end up finding that expired product in the back of the shelf.  Face it, who hasn't had to throw out a box of Fruit Loops that got pushed behind everything else on that shelf.  Being more deliberate in your choices at the store.  If like me, you buy 5 cans of a new product only to find out as you eat the first's not very good.  Then the rest sit...forever.   Or there is a sale on Sriracha flavored beans - buy five get two free, and of course you get 7 cans only to tire on them after the first three.  Lastly, preparing too much.  Who finishes that 2lb can of pork'n beans?

NY Times
Food Waste Is Becoming Serious Economic and Environmental Issue, Report Says

By RON NIXONFEB. 25, 2015

WASHINGTON — With millions of households across the country struggling to have enough to eat, and millions of tons of food being tossed in the garbage, food waste is increasingly being seen as a serious environmental and economic issue.
A report released Wednesday shows that about 60 million metric tons of food is wasted a year in the United States, with an estimated value of $162 billion. About 32 million metric tons of it end up in municipal landfills, at a cost of about $1.5 billion a year to local governments.

The problem is not limited to the United States.

The report estimates that a third of all the food produced in the world is never consumed, and the total cost of that food waste could be as high as $400 billion a year. Reducing food waste from 20 to 50 percent globally could save $120 billion to $300 billion a year by 2030, the report found.

“Food waste is a global issue, and tackling it is a priority,” said Richard Swannell, director of sustainable food systems at the Waste and Resources Action Program, or Wrap, an antiwaste organization in Britain that compiled the new report. “The difficulty is often in knowing where to start and how to make the biggest economic and environmental savings.”

The food discarded by retailers and consumers in the most developed countries would be more than enough to feed all of the world’s 870 million hungry people, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

But it is not just those countries that have problems with food waste. The report showed that it is also an issue in African countries like South Africa.

The problem is expected to grow worse as the world’s population increases, the report found. By 2030, when the global middle class expands, consumer food waste will cost $600 billion a year, unless actions are taken to reduce the waste, according to the report.

Food waste is not only a social cost, but it contributes to growing environmental problems like climate change, experts say, with the production of food consuming vast quantities of water, fertilizer and land. The fuel that is burned to process, refrigerate and transport it also adds to the environmental cost.

Most food waste is thrown away in landfills, where it decomposes and emits methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Globally, it creates 3.3 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases annually, about 7 percent of the total emissions, according to the report.

The United Nations agency points out that methane gas from the world’s landfills are surpassed in emissions by only China and the United States.

“Seven percent is not the largest contributor of greenhouse gasses, but it’s not an insignificant amount,” said Helen Mountford, the director of economics at the World Resources Institute. “But this is one area — reducing food waste — where we can make a difference.”

Over the last several years, some cities and counties in the United States, including New York City, have started programs to tackle the issue. Hennepin County, Minn., the state’s most populous county, provides grants from $10,000 to $50,000 to local business and nonprofits to help recycle food products or turn them into compost.

“There is still a lot in the waste stream,” said Paul Kroening, supervising environmentalist at Hennepin County Environmental Services. “We are just scratching the surface.”

A coalition of food industry trade groups, the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, has also increased effort to combat food waste. Meghan Stasz, the director of sustainability for the Grocery Manufacturers Association, a member of the alliance, said the group was working with supermarket chains to reduce waste by clarifying expiration dates and selling smaller portions of food.

Ms. Stasz said the group was also getting its members to donate more food and make changes in manufacturing processes to reduce the amount of wasted food. One member, the giant food company ConAgra, changed the way it placed dough in shell for its pot pies and saved 235 tons of dough in a year.

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NY Times                           
Tips to Reduce Food Waste


Being a better cook is more than mastering recipes. It’s also getting the most from your food, wasting little and repurposing leftovers in creative, even ingenious ways. Below, Food reporters and editors share their ideas for improving kitchen storage and using up odds and ends. Have a suggestion? Post it in the comments section.

Give vegetables some space. A crowded vegetable crisper is soon a rotten one. Allow air to circulate. Most vegetables are best left in plastic bags that are open and punched with holes. (Onions and potatoes are outliers. Leave them in a cabinet or pantry, alone in the dark, away from the other vegetables and each other.)

Wrap lettuce and cucumbers well in paper towels and refrigerated in plastic bags. For best results, wrap cucumbers individually.

Rinse herbs lightly, roll them in paper towels and refrigerate in a plastic bag with the top left open. Or, if you have shelf space in your refrigerator, trim the ends off a bunch, put it in a glass of water like a bouquet, and cover with a plastic bag.

Sauté lettuce that has begun to wilt in olive oil and season with garlic or shallot.

Blanch and then purée carrot tops into chimichurri or pesto. For chimichurri, blend with red wine vinegar, olive oil, herbs and garlic or shallots. For pesto, blend with olive oil, pine nuts and a hard cheese like Parmesan. Use it to top fish, season soup or sauce pasta. (Taste the tops first; if they’re very bitter, blanch more than once.) Radish tops and roasted asparagus bottoms are good for pesto, too.

Eat carrot tops in a seaweed-like salad: blanch once or twice, then toss in sesame oil and soy sauce.

Garnish foods with fennel fronds, celery leaves and carrot tops (used sparingly).

Chop and sauté radish tops or turnip tops. Add a poached or fried egg. Call it breakfast.

Stop peeling so many of your vegetables. Carrots, parsnips, cucumbers and many others are just fine to eat with a good scrub.

Make chocolate mousse with overripe avocados: purée with melted chocolate chips, almond or cow’s milk, cocoa powder, a little sweetener and vanilla. Or mash them with a little lime juice and freeze for an instant guacamole base. Or blend with spinach or basil, olive oil and herbs to make a sauce for pasta. Or add to salad dressing and purée for a thicker emulsion.

Boil carrots and blend with a neutral oil, a little garlic and a hard-boiled egg for a fluffy alternative to mayonnaise.

Save vegetables (or use up kale stems and cucumber butts) with a quick pickle. Pour a boiling mixture of white vinegar, sugar, salt and water and some herbs or peppers or garlic. Refrigerate. Make a steak salad and add some sliced pickled vegetables.

Keep the stems from cilantro or parsley, along with celery leaves, onion peels, mushroom stems and the like in a bag or bowl in the refrigerator or freezer. When you have enough, simmer into a stock for risotto or soup.

Toss those last few berries, half an apple, peeled brown bananas (cut into chunks for easy puréeing) or other fruit in a bag in the freezer. Soon you’ll have enough for a smoothie, which is also a good way to use up the last bit of sour cream, yogurt or ice cream at the bottom of the carton.

Save orange rinds, especially those from juiced oranges. Dry them and use as fire kindling, where they release a delightful aroma against the wood smoke.

Keep lemons in the fridge. Wrap zested lemons in plastic, and keep extra lemon halves cut side down in a bowl or on a plate to be used for salad dressings. They can also be preserved or cooked down to a quick marmalade, or used for cleaning: rub the cut side on aluminum pots to shine them, or on cutting boards to clean them. Or put them down the garbage disposal to make the house smell good.

Throw woody stems (like rosemary and thyme) into a roasting pan with meat or root vegetables.

Chop tender, thinner parsley and cilantro stems and use them as you would the leaves. Thicker stems can be chopped and sautéed with the onion in any recipe that calls for the herbs as a garnish. Any stem can be used in stock.

Steep mint for tea. Stir in honey after steeping.

Purée herbs and olive oil and freeze in plastic bags or ice cube trays. Use as the base for pesto or other herb sauces.

Resprout scallions by using the green parts, then taking the white bulbs and putting them in a jar of water. Replenish the water regularly.

Hang sturdy herbs upside down to dry. Use as you would any store-bought dried herb.
Meat and Seafood

Make stock. In the refrigerator or freezer, save poultry, beef and ham bones and scraps; shrimp, lobster and crab shells; and fish heads and bones (from white-fleshed fish) until you have enough for a big pot of whatever kind of stock you want to make. Or make a small batch of stock immediately. The carcass and pan drippings from a roast chicken can go right into a pot with whatever bits of vegetables you have. Add a carrot, half an onion and a bay leaf or other herbs. Cover with water, bring to a boil and then turn heat down to a slow simmer for a couple of hours. Don’t forget to check for seasoning and skim for fat or impurities. Use for soup the next day or to cook a pot of rice.

Reduce stock and freeze for a fast broth. When you’ve made stock, strain it and then simmer it again, reducing by perhaps 10 times. Freeze it in ice cube trays or small containers. Reconstitute with water.

Reserve any excess skin or fat from the chicken you are about to cook. Freeze it until you have enough to render into schmaltz.

Save even small amounts of bacon grease and rendered pork fat from roasts. Use to roast potatoes and root vegetables, or with greens. Bacon grease can be especially good in baked goods.

Freeze the chicken liver if you get one with a whole chicken. Accumulate enough and sauté with butter, a little shallot and a shot of wine to blend into paté. Or just sauté it as a cook’s treat.

Save pickle brine for brining chicken.

Give meat — and not just fruit — a second life in a pie. A few balls of savory dough wrapped in plastic or foil and then put in a plastic bag will last up to three months in the freezer. Or use leftover meat for soup, quesadillas, enchiladas, tacos or salads.

Use sour milk to make pancakes or other baked goods that call for buttermilk.

Save Parmesan and pecorino rinds in the freezer to make stock, or slip them directly into a pot of soup to enhance the flavor.

Mash blue cheese with olive oil and keep it in the refrigerator for salad dressing or to use on potatoes.

Combine small mixed scraps of cheese to make fromage fort, fondue or mixed-cheese macaroni and cheese. Or grate or crumble them on salad or on top of sliced fruit.

Bread and Nuts
Whirl stale bread into bread crumbs and freeze. Toast as a topping for pasta or gratins, as a coating for pan-fried cutlets or as a thickener for blended soups or gazpacho. Mix into ground meat for meatballs or meatloaf.

Use stale bread for French toast, bread pudding or strata. Or turn it into croutons, use it in panzanella or ribollita, or as bed for roast chicken. A loaf of aging bread is a good excuse to make a fondue or a pot of French onion soup. And you don’t need to make bread crumbs to use old bread in meatballs; if the bread has personality, you can increase the ratio of bread to meat.

Freeze bread by wrapping it well, then reviving it by bringing it back to room temperature, unwrapping it, spritzing it with water a few times and popping it into a 350-degree oven for 8 to 12 minutes. (Stale loaves that aren’t frozen can be brought back to life this way, too. Spritz them with a little water first.) You could slice the bread first, which affects the quality but makes it easier to take a piece directly from the freezer to the toaster.

Slice up a leftover baguette, let the pieces dry out, then bag them to repurpose as croutons or crackers.

Cut leftover bread slices or crusts into sticks, butter and bake for “soldiers” to serve with eggs or soup.

Crush leftover party nuts and sprinkle them on top of a salad or cooked brussels sprouts.
General Storage

The dates on your packages have nothing to do with food safety, nor are they federally regulated. They are the manufacturer’s suggestion for when the products are at their peak quality. Properly stored food that looks good and smells good is probably good.

Freezer bags are wonderful, but food is better if it’s wrapped tightly before it goes into the freezer bag. Pour cool stock in a freezer bag, carefully get the air out and put it in the freezer flat. Label and date everything. Painter’s tape and a Sharpie work well.
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NY Times
 Starve a Landfill
Efficiency in the Kitchen to Reduce Food Waste


SEATTLE — The nation’s first citywide composting program based largely on shame began here in January.

City sanitation workers who find garbage cans filled with aging lettuce, leftover pizza or even the box it came in are slapping on bright red tags to inform the offending household (and, presumably, the whole neighborhood) that the city’s new composting law has been violated.

San Francisco may have been the first city to make its citizens compost food, but Seattle is the first to punish people with a fine if they don’t. In a country that loses about 31 percent of its food to waste, policies like Seattle’s are driven by environmental, social and economic pressure.
But mandated composting reflects a deeper shift in the mood of the nation’s cooks, one in which wasting food is unfashionable. Running an efficient kitchen — where bruised fruit is blended into smoothies, carrot tops are pulsed into pesto, and a juicy pork shoulder can move seamlessly from Sunday supper to Monday’s carnitas to a rich pot of broth for the freezer — is becoming as satisfying as the food itself.

The ethos stretches from Manhattan’s best restaurants to the homes of people like Kathleen Whitson, 44, who cooks for her family of four in West Seattle.

Ms. Whitson, who didn’t discover fresh garlic until she was out of college, now drops vegetable trimmings in a compost bucket on the counter and keeps a list of what’s in her chest freezer on the refrigerator door. A stockpot simmers on the stove and kombucha ferments in the pantry. She cooks more like her grandmother than her mother, a woman she said raised her to believe in the magic of processed food.

“In spite of the fact that it drives me crazy sometimes, I can’t imagine cooking any other way now,” Ms. Whitson said. “It just makes me feel better. Like, I love knowing I have raspberries from our yard in the freezer.”

To be sure, the cook’s pursuit of thrift and efficiency is not new to American food culture. Sausage, home-churned butter and fermented cabbage were as much delicious foundations of farm life as they were essential to Depression-era survival.

Homemakers during World War II considered themselves soldiers of the kitchen, with conservation their battle cry. In the 1970s, ecology drove the urge to make good use of kitchen waste.

Somewhere along the line, the art of kitchen efficiency was lost amid grocery stores packed with pre-made pizza shells, bagged lettuce and fruit so perfect it needed no knife work. Dinner was almost as likely to come from the drive-through or the new corner bistro as from the stove.

How were home cooks supposed to know what to do with a leftover chicken carcass if they didn’t know how to roast the chicken in the first place?

Now, in this era of nose-to-tail eating, by-catch seafood suppers and farmers’ markets, the discarded is becoming delicious.

“We are starting to really celebrate the curve of the vegetable,” said the Atlanta chef Steven Satterfield, “and not peeling things and showing off a little of the tap root or the green on the top of the radish to remind you of where the vegetable came from.” His new book, “Root to Leaf,” is a deep study of vegetable cookery, with instructions for making stocks from corn cobs and mushroom stems.

Wasting less in the kitchen is just smart economics, said Dana Gunders, a project scientist for the Natural Resources Defense Council whose book, “Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook,” comes out in May.

Eating better may cost more, she said, but an efficient cook can make up the difference. “We are so price sensitive in the store, and 10 cents will swing us one way or other,” she said. “But in the kitchen we throw out so much money without even thinking about price.”

Reducing food waste is moving so quickly into the cultural mainstream that it ranked ninth among the top 20 food trends on the National Restaurant Association’s annual “What’s Hot in 2015” list, based on a survey of almost 1,300 chefs.

Imperfect fruits and vegetables are being promoted by grocery stores and organizations like, whose social media campaign includes a stream of misshapen produce photographs on its Twitter feed, @UglyFruitAndVeg.

In October, the organization helped create what was billed as the Woodstock of food waste in Oakland, Calif. — a meal for 5,000 people from food that would have otherwise been thrown out before it made its way to the grocery store.

Later this spring, a former Trader Joe’s executive will open Daily Table, a restaurant and grocery store in Roxbury, Mass., that is dedicated to ugly fruit and food past its sell-by date. Even in Europe, where classic dishes like pot-au-feu or the Tuscan soup ribollita sprang from a history of kitchen efficiency, 2014 was declared the year against food waste, a move that came six years after the European Union lifted its ban on selling produce that was knobby, excessively curved or otherwise misshapen. Last year, the French grocery chain Intermarché took things one step further and started a campaign to celebrate and sell what it called “inglorious fruits and vegetables” with special pricing and ads.

Dan Barber, the chef and author, is so dedicated to ending food waste that he is turning his Greenwich Village restaurant, Blue Hill, into a pop-up in which every dish is based on waste. It’s an extreme extension of what many chefs already do.Continue reading the main story
“The best restaurants today are focusing on how to utilize what’s unknown and largely uncoveted,” Mr. Barber said. “That has turned dining on its head so fast we tend to not even recognize it.”

For his project, which begins on March 13, Mr. Barber and his cooks are putting kale ribs into a pressure cooker and turning them into vegetable rice and deep-frying skate bones with fish-head sauce for dipping. He has created a burger from the vegetable pulp left over from
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