Over $200m worth of food thrown away annually by households: Survey

The average Singapore household throws away about $170 worth of food and beverage a year, amounting to more than $200 million annually.
The average Singapore household throws away about $170 worth of food and beverage a year, amounting to more than $200 million annually.PHOTO: ST FILE

The average Singapore household throws away about $170 worth of food and beverage a year, amounting to more than $200 million annually, according to a latest survey commissioned by appliance maker Electrolux Singapore.

The survey results, released yesterday in conjunction with World Food Day, also showed 85 per cent of households do not consume food before the indicated date on the packages, contributing to a growing food waste problem here.

Food waste accounts for about 10 per cent of total waste generated here and has spiked by more than 40 per cent in the past 10 years.

It rose from 542,700 tonnes in 2006 to more than 790,000 tonnes last year, which is equivalent to two bowls of rice per person, per day.

The survey, commissioned by the Swedish company last month, polled 1,000 households. Since 2015, it has been part of the company's annual community initiative, called #HappyPlateSG, to raise awareness of food waste.

The survey's focus in the past two years was on food that looked "ugly" or unappealing for consumption, and on reasons for wasted food in homes. The focus this year was on food in storage. The survey showed that 72 per cent of households know that food past its indicated date does not necessarily mean it is unfit for consumption.

They could attribute the meanings of "Best Before", "Sell By" and 'Expires On", which mean: a guide to how long a product can retain its peak quality and freshness; a reference for sellers to let them know how long an item can be displayed for sale; and to indicate when there's a health risk in eating an item after that date, respectively.

Separately, 58 per cent said they would continue eating the product if it were frozen, vacuum-sealed and stored well, and showed no signs of turning bad.

Mr Eric Low, chef-owner of culinary consultancy Lush Epicurean, said different categories of food do not deteriorate at the same rate, and such storage methods can help prolong the lifespan of food.

When told of the amount of food waste generated here, 84 per cent of respondents were shocked, guilty, sad or angry while 10 per cent said they were indifferent.

Kitchen assistant Cheung Shu Wing, 60, said his family spends about $50 a week on food like bread and instant noodles. "I would usually not eat expired food because of health risks, just to be safe. The food we eat are usually cheap, so it's not worth the risk."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2017, with the headline 'Over $200m worth of food thrown away annually by households: Survey'. Print Edition | Subscribe