According to a recent survey, more than half of Australians aren’t happy about the waste generated by food retailers, particularly the overuse of plastic packaging and discarding of imperfect produce.
The data from food safety organisation, SAI Global, reveals that 53 per cent of survey respondents said there is too much plastic packaging, and they want the practice stopped, with older shoppers more concerned about prolific plastic packaging than their younger counterparts.
However, it is the younger shoppers who are more bothered by food wastage, with 43 per cent of 18- to 34-year-olds wanting supermarkets stop rejecting produce on the basis of it being cosmetically imperfect.
SAI Global food safety expert, Andrew Nash says that while overuse of plastics should be reduced where possible, unbeknownst to many shoppers, supermarkets actually use plastic for food safety purposes.
“Plastic is effective in protecting high risk foods, such as meat and dairy, from contamination through the millions of pathogens and microorganisms in the environment,” he said.
“Plastic, particularly if it’s shrink-wrapped, also helps prevent food from oxidising and spoiling quickly, and it is a good protectant from chemicals in the atmosphere. Dozens of people are likely to handle our foods through the entire supply chain process—including other shoppers. Supermarkets need to reduce the risks of cross-contamination.
“Plastic also assists to reduce food wastage by providing an extra layer of protection. For example, English cucumbers have a particularly thin skin and the tight plastic wrapping helps them to last longer in the fridge by acting as an insulator to protect against cold injury and also slows dehydration and spoilage.”
When it comes to misshapen or ‘ugly’ produce though, Mr Nash says that produce that is not the perfect shape or size presents no food safety issues.
“It is encouraging to see that Coles this year has announced it will begin selling ‘ugly’ fruit and vegetables in the war against waste, with trials having already commenced in Victoria and South Australia.”
Woolworths launched a similar initiative and the first of its kind in Australia in 2014 with its Odd Bunch campaign, where ‘ugly’ produce is sold at reduced prices.