All of us should keep a kitchen diary, showing how much food leaves our home uneaten, as garbage. We all waste food, you and me, every day, millions of tons of it. In China, enough food is wasted in restaurants every year to feed 200 million people. In the United States, 40 percent of food is wasted from farm to fork. Each year, the amount of food thrown away in rich countries is almost the same as that produced in sub-Saharan Africa. This raises some important questions.
In developing countries, food is lost because farmers do not have appropriate cooling, storage or market access for their crops. Their grains, fruits and vegetables wither and rot away. In developed countries, the picture is different, and food is wasted in supermarkets, restaurants and at home. China faces both syndromes, significant losses in farms, as well as at the retail and consumption stages. And the amount of food wasted by Chinese consumers is rapidly increasing.
In China, which didn't have a supermarket until 1989, annual supermarket sales have reached $100 billion today. The country will soon become the biggest consumer market in the world.
Consumer culture has pervaded China and urban residents can get quality food from anywhere in the country and from across the planet. Chinese consumers are as picky about their food as their counterparts in other countries. In supermarkets, they refuse to buy vegetables that don't look fresh or have an irregular shape, or milk and other products close to their expiry date.
Besides, Chinese consumers tend to be generous. In restaurants or at home, often too much food is ordered or cooked and served. So while trooping out of a restaurant, full and happy, with colleagues or friends, look back at what's left untouched on the table. Should Chinese consumers take more responsibility for the waste they create?
Everyone deserves to have enough food to eat. Despite China's impressive success in reducing hunger over the past three decades, the job is not complete yet. Food security and diets in Chinese cities are way better than in its rural areas. About 12 percent of Chinese people are still undernourished, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, which in itself is enough reason not to waste food. And there is more.
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