The hefty bill for food waste in Quebec

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The salty bill ;e of food waste in Quebec

“Food waste has enormous social, economic and environmental consequences on communities, the country and the planet”, alert a report by Recyc-Québec.

In Canada, an estimated 11.2 million tonnes of food are lost or wasted every year even though they were edible.

British supermarkets Waitrose announced on Monday that they are removing best before dates on nearly 500 products in order to limit food waste. In Quebec, where nearly 1.2 million tons of food end up in the trash each year rather than on the plate, players in the agri-food industry also want to limit the loss of edible products while requiring “beacons to act.

What ends up wasted has an impact on the planet that could have been spared, summarizes bluntly Anne Marie Aubert, coordinator of the Montreal Food System Council.

Food waste includes table scraps, spoiled food and food whose best-before date has passed, according to the definition of Recyc-Québec, a state-owned company responsible for studying good recycling practices.

While meat and poultry constitute 13% of food wasted, specifies Ms. Aubert, they represent 59% of greenhouse gas emissions. We must target these foods if our objective is to reduce the environmental impact, advises the food expert, in an interview with ICI RDI.

As for the waste generated by the industry itself, companies have little incentive to measure, monitor and reduce their food residues, concludes a vast study to quantify food losses and waste in Quebec, published in June.

The report pinpoints the attitude of companies wanting to get at least some return on investment, so they don't want to throw away (or donate) food before its shelf life is at a minimum or expired, often without notice.

This commercial approach complicates the ability of organizations to recover and redistribute edible food, notes the study, which also warns that food loss and waste represent enormous economic, environmental and social costs for individuals and society in as a whole.

Does “best before” on packaging contribute to food waste? Interview with Louise Hénault-Ethier, director of the Eau Terre Environnement Center of the National Institute for Scientific Research.

In their economic interest, supermarkets and grocery stores take care to manage their inventory well to avoid waste, in turn defends Pierre-Alexandre Blouin, president and CEO of the Quebec Food Retailers Association.

Mr. Blouin remains more cautious about eliminating best before dates on the model of Waitrose and other British brands, such as the giant of the sector Tesco, which removed best before dates on a hundred products from 2018, or more recently Marks and Spencer which did the same on 300 references.

Comparing food waste in Quebec with foreign countries is difficult, says the CEO of the Association of Quebec Food Retailers. The inspection processes, methods, obligations are different, he argues.

For us, a best before date is a work tool, justifies Mr. Blouin, it allows us to manage product rotations; when we "portion" a food, a sliced ​​ham for example, there is a countdown, because the product is good for a given duration.

“It is important to give the right information to the customer so that he consumes the product without putting his health at risk. »

— Pierre-Alexandre Blouin, CEO of the Quebec Food Retailers Association

Mr. Blouin nevertheless shares an openness on the part of food retailers to get more involved in the fight against waste, but that takes guidelines, he adds.

In 2022, the National Zero Waste Council conducted research on household waste in Canada. According to this initiative, which aims to limit waste and promote a circular economy, 63% of the food Canadians throw away could have been consumed.

For the average Canadian household, this represents 140 kg of food thrown away annually – a bill of more than $1,300 per year, figures the analysis.

In fine, it is inflation that could well limit food waste, anticipates Jacques Nantel, professor emeritus in the Department of Marketing at HEC Montreal.

For consumers concerned about limiting waste, several public resources help prevent waste by providing information, in particular, on the lifespan of foodstuffs or by specifying safe temperatures for preserving them. food.

Anne Marie Aubert is convinced that the fight against food waste will go through better school education.

Canada remains the only G7 country without a school feeding program, she notes. This program not only feeds children, but also educates them about healthy eating, cooking skills, and food budgeting.

With information from ICI RDI, the program Tout un matin and Agence France-Presse

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