Forum: Enact laws to tackle the problem of food wastage

Food waste is both a global and local issue - indeed, it is Singapore's largest waste stream. Exhortations to reduce domestic waste, however, form only part of the solution (Tackling food waste at home, Dec 20).

According to the National Environment Agency, more than 40 per cent of Singapore's food waste was generated along the supply chain comprising importers, wholesalers and suppliers.

The thousands of food and beverage outlets across the island, as well as hundreds of supermarkets, are major contributors. They frequently dispose of unsold or visually blemished items en masse.

These forms of industrial food waste can be curbed with comprehensive initiatives and legislative measures.

Supermarkets are a possible starting point.

Pre-emptive discounts should be applied not only to time-sensitive ready-made food items, but also to all products approaching their use-by date, such as canned or snack foods.

Merchants should also develop strategies to clear less-than-pristine food stock, be it canny advertising to dispel the popular stigma surrounding misshapen fruit and vegetables, or donations of unsold items to charitable causes.

France, for example, has become a global leader in reducing supermarket waste, with its law on food waste that prohibits supermarkets from throwing away unused foods and mandating that supermarkets of a certain size must donate unused food or face a fine.

Countries like Norway, Denmark, Japan and South Korea have instituted legal curbs to similar effect.

Thus, while Singaporeans should certainly make an effort to tackle food waste at home, the food industry and state regulators have much to contribute as well.

Paul Chan Poh Hoi

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