Labelling, healthy eating and ending waste


I was reading an article by David Aaronvitch in The Guardian called “The stomach for it”.

It’s about his experience of a fat camp in America.

It’s a great read, of course, it’s by David Aaronovitch

But it included one sentence about the fat club’s approach to healthy eating which made me really angry.  I mean I understand it, I kind of live it myself, it makes sense, but it’s just utterly, poetically impractical:

“If you pick up any food and it has a label on it, put it back.”

This one sentence connects all the issues that are so very topical now about plastic, packaging, pollution and public health.

What do we do about labelling and healthy eating? 

We work with clients in the food, packaging and waste management sectors.  We’re totally immersed in the whole food cycle from fork to field, to refuse-derived fuel.

We need packaging

I watched Blue Planet, we all watched Blue Planet.  We know we must end pollution of the seas, of every part of our planet.  But ending packaging isn’t the answer as we must also feed 7.6  billion people on our planet.

Three important facts

  • 50 per cent of vegetables and fruits in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America are wasted before even reaching our homes.
  • Per capita food waste by consumers in Europe and North-America is 95-115 kg/year.
  • Per capita food waste by consumers in sub-Saharan Africa and South/Southeast Asia is only 6-11 kg/year.

Source: Food & Agricultural Organisation of the UN (FAO)

We need labels

We simply can’t afford to go back to a state where all our food is unwrapped and unprotected.  Far too much will be wasted.  Contamination, bruising, squashing, exposure etc. The possibilities are endless!

So it must be packaged in some way, and therefore it needs a label.

Innovation saves waste

Tata Steel has invented the most wonderful mobile canning line, that can (pun intended) massively reduce food waste.

It will play a big part in lowering the percentage of food which is wasted at farming source.

Watch the video:

Imagine a can without a label.   Dog food, tuna, beans or peaches? Last year or ten years ago? We must have labels. I’m using a can to make the point but it applies to any packaging medium.  Is that gin, water or what in that bottle?

Four things we need to end food waste

1. Education

For the label to work we must have education, so that people can read the label and relate it to themselves.

People need to have the knowledge to understand what the facts mean, so that they can make healthy informed choices about what they eat.

Food label, healthy eating

2. Communication

Understanding the food facts is one aspect of communication,  as it relates to healthy eating.  The other aspect of communication is about food and packaging waste.

For the label and packaging to be recycled properly we need innovation and application. There are lots of wonderful innovations in the food chain, for example, Anaerobic Digestion (AD)  for food waste or bio bean technology to convert coffee grounds into solid log fuel

3. Engagement

We need to communicate to people the role they can play in enabling this innovation work. Waste coffee grounds can only be transformed into biofuel if they are collected separately from other food streams. Cardboard can only be recycled if it is dry and clean. Food can only be used in AD if it is collected separately.

Yes, it’s obvious common sense, but you have to tell people to get even this basic message across, and that clearly isn’t happening enough at the moment.

It takes communication and engagement to make recycling work.  That’s why the best waste management companies like our client Cawleys are hugely focussed on communication campaigns

4. Common sense

And the final ingredient must be common sense.  Full marks to Waitrose for ending black plastic in its packaging because black as a colour can’t be detected by infrared waste sorting machines.

Yes, these are incredibly basic, obvious facts but in the drive to eat sensibly and end waste we are forgetting common sense.

If we want to sweep away the tides of waste in our oceans, we mustn’t get swept away in a sea of anger.  We must use our common sense to communicate well.

We need good, intelligent PR


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