How do you feel about food waste?
I was in my local Co-op over Christmas, picking up a few emergency food bits. You know how it gets at Christmas – you feel like you have loads of food in the house, but when you actually look, it’s mainly crackers and cheese, and there are only so many meals you can have that for before your blood starts to feel a bit sticky. So, I was going to do some jacket potatoes, and had picked up a bag that was half price. Nice.
(I always look at the reduced things in supermarkets – partly just because I am tight but also because I hate food waste. I had some ancient couscous with fried yellow pepper and bendy celery for my lunch yesterday just because it all needed using up. That’s commitment.)
I took my bargain potatoes to the checkout, but when the woman serving me scanned them, the till beeped ominously.
“I’m sorry,” she said, “I can’t sell you these, the date on them was yesterday.”
“That’s alright,” I said, “I don’t mind.”
“No I’m sorry,” she said, “the till won’t let me sell them to you.”
I looked at the till. It didn’t look especially fearsome.
“But that’s ridiculous,” I said, “what are you going to do with them?”
“It’s company policy,” she said, “what if something were to happen?”
“What is going to happen with a potato?!” I asked, getting annoyed.
“I am very sorry,” she carried on, looking anything but, “but we can not sell them to you.”
“Can you give them to me?” I asked hopefully. “As a festive gift?”
She raised her eyebrows. “No,” she said, looking done with the whole conversation, “we have to put them in the bin.”
“In the bin?!”
I was fighting a losing battle, but as a prime example of unnecessary food waste it made me so cross. Here was a bag of perfectly good baking potatoes – at least eight of them – that were just going to be thrown away because of some arbitrary best before date that Co-op had made up in the first place. If it had been a bag of raw prawns or something I can see that they might need to be a bit more cautious, but potatoes?!
Fruit and veg doesn’t come off a tree or out of the ground with a sell by date. We’re not idiots – we can look at a vegetable and know if it’s past its best and perhaps needs to be quickly turned into a soup. A potato that was lying quite happily one day on the shelf isn’t suddenly going to become rabid over night and form the basis of an expensive law suit.
“I’m suing you Co-op! You sold me a potato that was one day past a random best before date and the very next day my legs fell off.”
It’s just not going to happen.
What’s especially annoying is that they don’t actually need to put dates on the fruit and vegetables at all. Loose produce at the greengrocer doesn’t have dates does it? We do most of our shopping at Aldi, and they don’t have dates either. It’s a small thing, but it means you don’t get people throwing out perfectly good food just because the bag or the till tells them they should. Since when did we lose this aspect of independent thought?
Come on Co-op, sort yourselves out.