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Institution of Mechanical Engineers calls for action on food waste

11 | 01 | 13

The issue of food waste in the hospitality industry has been highlighted once again following a new report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IME) suggesting that some 50 per cent of all food prepared globally ends up as waste.

Problems such as inadequate infrastructure, poor storage facilities and kitchen equipment, overly strict sell-by dates, buy-one-get-one free offers and consumers demanding cosmetically perfect food are all factors in this shocking statistic, according to the report.

As many as 30 per cent of vegetable crops in the UK are not harvested because they fail to meet the demanding cosmetic standards put in place by supermarkets across the country.

Dr Tim Fox, head of energy and environment at the IME, said the staggering statistics indicate that far too much food is being wasted across the world and urged businesses to take this into account.

"As water, land and energy resources come under increasing pressure from competing human demands, engineers have a crucial role to play in preventing food loss and waste," he added.

Mark Linehan, managing director of the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA), added that the IME findings simply underline the problem that many companies already know to exist and urged restaurants and catering firms to change their processes in a bid to reduce unnecessary waste.

He told Eat Out magazine that cutting down on portion size is one way that they could do this, suggesting that companies focus on "quality rather than quantity" in the future.

"Restaurants need to look at serving smaller portion sizes and need to encourage diners to take home leftovers," Mr Linehan added.

"Consumers, and indeed some restaurateurs, must understand that the days of food being available where and when you want it and in whatever quantity are over. Food is a valuable commodity that we cannot afford to waste," the SRA chief concluded, noting that rising prices are likely to force a behavioural shift over the coming years even if training and campaigns do not.

The SRA's Too Good to Waste report, published in 2010, also urged restaurant owners to consider the issue of food wastage when planning the cooking processes used in their establishments.

With green issues becoming a central part of many hospitality business' trading models, this is likely to emerge as an important problemin the coming months.

Recommendations made by the SRA include carrying out a survey to assess what aspects of a restaurant operation result in the most waste, and engaging with staff on the issue to ensure they understand the importance of any reduction initiatives

Various preparation techniques can also cut down on food waste, with the SRA suggesting firms liaise with suppliers to ensure they do not order too much produce and pointing out that re-usable items such as orange peel and parsley stalks can be used to create marmalade or stock.

The report pointed out that restaurants are ultimately paying twice for food that they use and throw out, with waste reduction a way of reducing overheads as well as improving a company's environmental credentials.ADNFCR-16001031-ID-801520802-ADNFCR

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