Ramadan 2023 in UAE: 6 ways to work towards zero food waste this holy month

Experts at Gulfood suggest behavioural changes as Dh6 billion worth of food is wasted every year

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Nandini Sircar

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Published: Mon 20 Feb 2023, 8:15 PM

Last updated: Mon 20 Feb 2023, 9:44 PM

Experts associated with the food industry are urging people to reduce food wastage this Ramadan as it amounts to Dh6 billion every year.

They highlight a ‘behavioural change’ that includes a ‘nudging attitude’ is imperative to prevent wasting food at homes and restaurants, especially during festive occasions, as roughly a third of the world's food is wasted, which is about 1.3 billion tonnes a year.

They also underline preventing food from going to waste is one of the easiest and most powerful actions one can take to save money and reduce the climate change footprint.

While shedding light during a session titled, ‘Towards zero food waste’ at Gulfood 2023, Khuloud Al Nuwais, chief sustainability officer — Emirates Foundation, said: “It's really important that we change how we think and work on policies. This is one of the areas we're looking at to create an enabling environment where restaurants and the hospitality sectors become more open to donating their food rather than letting it go to the bin. I also would like to introduce nudging behaviours.”

Experts talk at a session titled Towards zero food waste at Gulfood 2023. — Photo by M. Sajjad
Experts talk at a session titled Towards zero food waste at Gulfood 2023. — Photo by M. Sajjad

Messaging for portion control

Nuwais added: “One of the things that we had started piloting is to test behavioural change. We collaborated with a food catering company that provides food stamp campaigns in Jumeirah hotels and GA resorts. We tested three things. We tested the introduction of messaging to these campaigns, like portion control.

"At the buffets, we made sure that there were messages so that people don't pile up their plates and then it ends up going to waste. We put messages around, you stick to this portion and if you want more, you can always come back and take more. Another aspect was around separating food waste in the bins so that people could see the actual amount of food that goes into the bin. After running this pilot for 13 weeks, food wastage came down by 44 per cent. So now we want to scale up the campaign across the hospitality sector.”

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Experts point out simple things like taking an inventory, creating a meal plan during Ramadan, saving and recreating new recipes with leftovers, storing foods appropriately, buying ‘ugly’ looking foods, and creating compost are some of the ways to give back to the planet.

Leyla Fathallah, celebrity chef and co-owner of Fitkult and Sennara, said: “I see too much food wastage on a daily basis. It hurts. I feel we should start teaching people. It’s about discipline. It starts with their shopping, how they cook, how they do the storage (in the fridge) and how they consume the leftovers later. This is a long process. If we educate people on this starting from the parents, they will teach their kids, and this will spread from one house to another.

“I was showing people how to recreate a new recipe out of the food that they have in the fridge. What positively surprised me last year, as I work with different brands for Ramadan is that most of these brands were asking about how they can use their products and create a new recipe out of leftovers. I was really impressed. People now are looking for solutions.”

Nuwais highlighted that while the objective is to reduce UAE’s food loss and waste by 50 per cent by the year 2030, collaborations are also seminal.

She added: “Collaboration and partnership is also important. To make sure that we work together with all the different sectors from hospitality, retail and households, to basically build on current success stories rather than reinvent the wheel. Another pillar is to support startups, innovations, technologies, that can innovate and add value to scaling up the reduction processes.

“Buy tomatoes which do not look perfect. We believe in buying perfectly looking vegetables. The vegetables that don’t look so perfect but are otherwise fresh will taste as good as the good-looking one. Donate rather than to throw away food. Especially when we talk of restaurants, if you haven’t eaten, taking leftover food is perfectly fine. In this part of the world, sometimes people worry about their image too much… What if they're seen walking out with a bag. So, all these factors are important to change mindsets.”


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