Ramadan 2021: UAE aims to cut food waste by half by 2030
Up to 25 per cent more food is wasted during holy month, say experts.
In the UAE, on an average a person wastes around 224 kg of food each year, which is more than double the figure for Europe and the US, according to the Food Sustainability Index 2020. During the holy month of Ramadan, food wastage up to 25 per cent, industry experts said.
In the UAE, the economic cost of food waste is in billions. According to industry estimates, it could be as high as Dh12-13 billion (b) annually.
Globally, food waste results in an economic loss of $1 trillion (t) tonnes each year, and also has a significant impact on the environment and food security.
The UAE aims to cut food waste by half by the end of this decade as part of its food pledge that was launched in 2018. While campaigns and awareness programmes are run every year, Ramadan is a special time to promote individual and corporate responsibility, encouraging all segments of the society to ensure minimal wastage.
The 100 Million Meals programme by the Dubai government is aiming to raise awareness on this front, while ensuring that the poor and the vulnerable do not go to bed on empty stomachs during the Holy month.
Several corporate entities and restaurants in the UAE have been taking corrective steps and measures over the last few years, and plan to continue improving on this front.
“We introduced the concept of ‘No Food Wastage Day’ in the US in 2017, and since 2018, it is being observed across all our branches globally. The company has been able to bring down food wastage by a third in the last three years. We’ve been able to do this through in-house on-job training sessions to chefs, a culinary academy that is successfully creating an environment that explores creative ways of using the leftover food. We’ve also deployed food waste measuring kits at 50 locations that generate a report on how much food is wasted daily. It gives a perspective to chefs and kitchen staff. We are also promoting a culture of valuing what’s on the plate through display messages in cafeterias, awareness programmes, etc.,” said Thomas Devasia, General Manager (GM), Health, Safety, and Environment, ADNH Compass.
ADNH Compass distributes up to 3 million (m) meals per week and was able to bring down the food waste by 51 per cent in 2020. The company also conducts random food inspections.
It’s not just big companies that are making conscious efforts are reducing food waste, but several restaurants too. “We’ve been following an end of day audit of food wastage that’s reported in the restaurant’s WhatsApp group. Any wastage has to be reported. That’s a way of keeping track of food wastage and also alerting the kitchen and service staff. This strategy has worked. We have been able to reduce food waste to minimal levels that was well within operating standards,” said Bijou Antony, Restaurant Consultant, Tamarind Terrace.
“Over a period of time restaurants get a grip over their menu and volumes of each dish that goes out of the kitchen on a particular day and at a particular time. This information is key not only to reducing food waste, but also in workforce management and inventory control,” he added.
Households, too, are gearing up to ensure minimal food waste this Ramadan. “I know the usual quantities that are consumed every day in the house and prepare meals accordingly. Anything that is leftover is refrigerated and used on other days. I won’t say nothing is wasted, but food waste is minimal at our house. This year, we plan to be extra conscious on this front and will be shopping for what we need. Whatever savings we do will be donated to 100 Million Meals,” says Nadia Shakir, a homemaker.
Households are the largest food waste producing sector. And what gets binned the most are fresh fruits and vegetables. Rotting or wilting fresh food is rarely processed and used at homes, and often gets binned.
Almost one third of the food produced every year finds its way in landfills. Households, hospitality industry, farms, supermarkets, and other ancillary sectors, all have a role to play to reduce this massive wastage.
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