(Flickr/U.S. Department of Agriculture)

Canada is one of the biggest wasters of food: report

Every Canadian, on average, tosses away 170 kilograms of food per year

An international environmental group suggests that reducing Canada’s colossal food waste would be a smart business move and good for the environment.

“You can make a really strong business case for action,” said David Donaldson of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, an environmental watchdog agency set up under the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Canada is one of the biggest wasters of food on the planet, says the commission’s report, released late last week. The agency found that from farm to table, 396 kilograms of food annually are wasted or lost per capita.

That’s compared with 415 kilograms in the United States and 249 kilograms in Mexico.

Food is considered lost when it is spilled or spoiled before it reaches its final destination.

Not only does that waste have an economic cost — other studies have pegged it at about $30 billion a year — it creates 21 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, largely from landfills.

By far the largest part of the waste comes from consumers, says the report. Every Canadian, on average, tosses away 170 kilograms of food a year.

The commission’s recommendations focus on the middle part of the food chain where Canada’s groceries are collected, processed, distributed and prepared. That’s where the economic case is clearest, Donaldson said.

“You can make a business case for it. Companies can improve the way they do business.”

Restaurants could reduce portions, the report suggests. Bread served at tables could be optional. Buffet serving trays could be shallower to reduce the amount of food on display.

Retailers could sell cosmetically imperfect produce at a discount, as some already do. Expiry date labels could be standardized.

Better tools and techniques to prevent food waste and to make processing and transport more efficient would be a big help, said researcher Tamara Shulman.

“We interviewed people from across Canada and everyone’s thirsty to get access to information,” she said.

James Rillet of Restaurants Canada said his industry is well aware of the economic benefits of cutting waste.

“It’s money out of their pockets.”

Rillet’s group already runs programs to help restaurateurs plan better to avoid waste. It’s also working with the Ontario government to avoid food waste due to outdated health guidelines.

But he called some of the report’s recommendations simplistic.

“Some restaurants are known for their portion sizes,” he said. “There’s so many different concepts.

“Consumers want what they want.”

The National Zero Waste Council, which is devoted to cutting waste from the Canadian economy, praised the commission’s report and said it echoed many recommendations it has already made.

“Best-before dates are low-hanging fruit,” said Denise Philippe. “The dates on our food packaging are all over the map.”

Too much food gets tossed because consumers and businesses assume a best-before date is a deadline and not a quality benchmark, she said.

“It’s not clear to the consumer and sometimes not to businesses that when we say ‘best before’ we’re not talking about a food safety issue.”

Donaldson said more people are becoming aware of the problem.

The commission’s report was produced at the request of the three NAFTA governments. As well, all three have signed a United Nations pledge to halve food waste and loss by 2030.

A federal strategy is expected this spring.

“The issue of food waste, for the last decade, has really come to the forefront,” Donaldson said.

Canadian Press

Just Posted

Aldergrove Mall site becomes election issue

Letter from developers supporting current Township council sparks flurry of responses

Fort Langley to hold all-candidates meeting

A forum in the village includes Township of Langley school trustee, council, and mayoral candidates.

By-invitation meet-and-greet for Township council candidates draws flak

Organizer rejects complaint it amounted to a slate, calls suggestion a ‘conspiracy theory.’

UPDATED: Underground power fault blacks out part of downtown Langley

Electricity was out for a major commercial area.

Langley rower captures silver at world championships

The women’s eight makes a come-from-behind charge for back to back world championship medals

AFN national chief suggests moving Trans Mountain pipeline route

Perry Bellegarde said many Indigenous communities believe in the need to diversify export markets

UPDATED: Bill Cosby gets 3-10 years in prison for sexual assault

Judge also declared the disgraced comedian a ‘sexually violent predator’

Vancouver Whitecaps release head coach Carl Robinson

Assistant coach Martyn Pert and goalkeeper coach Stewart Kerr are also out

Sketch released of man wanted for attack on taxi driver in Surrey

Assault happened on the afternoon of Wednesday, Aug. 8

B.C. making progress on senior care staffing, Adrian Dix says

Minister aims to meet residential care provincial standard by 2021

More cameras, police coming after Marissa Shen killed in Burnaby park

Call boxes and increased patrols are also among the $1M in the city’s security measures

B.C. realtor receives racist letter touching on ‘empty homes’

The letter has been met with condemnation of the racism after Winnie Wu posted it online

Pawsitive response by B.C. community for 60-plus surrendered cats

Community comes together to help surrendered cats at Penticton SPCA

U.S. worker charged after video shows him spitting on customer’s pizza

Jaylon Kerley of Detroit is charged with a felony count of food law violations

Most Read