Alan Castle: Idea is food for thought

PRIME Minister David Cameron and his plans for the Big Society seem to have disappeared from the airwaves and the written press in the last few days.

Instead, they have been overtaken by the crisis in Libya and those poor people either under Gaddafi rule or the many Brits trying to get out of the country.

But Mr Cameron need not fear, I have been thinking of the Big Society and thinking how I can help the less fortunate in our society.

Each day, at the end of trading, thousands of pounds worth of food- stuff is dumped by a whole host of those who provide food for us, from giant supermarkets to the lowly street trader.

Rather than sell it at a much reduced price to the deserving, because it is either outof date by a day or will be by the next day’s trading, they dump it in skips.

What a waste. Over the year tons and tons of good edible food is dumped because it had six numerals on it, which means so much to the supermarket bosses but maybe not so much to us the consumer. That is the out-of-date code.

Those numerals, incidentally, are the sell-by date. In over 99 per cent of cases, it is perfectly good but those who sell it are frightened to death that if one person becomes ill they will be sued.

My family has always laughed at me, because many a time I will stick my nose into a jar to smell it to see if it is fit to eat. I have been doing it for years, ever since a grandparent said she believed that if it smelt all right it was fit to eat. She was over 85 when she died.

How often have you opened the fridge and found the sell-by date passed, yet you still use the jar, the tin or whatever it is.

One of my relatives, when at university, used to load supermarket shelves at night to help pay his way, as did others in the house which they shared. At the end of the shift, they would visit the store supermarket skip on the way home and get enough food to feed them for days.

All have survived and all are in professional occupations, some in a profession that they would not wish this to be common knowledge. But as they point out, it was perfectly good and it was only going to the local waste dump.

I was reading in the press recently that there are now some supermarkets that are sending the ‘sell-by dates’ to anaerobic generators but as the writer pointed out this will not solve the energy crisis.

There is even the case of one low- paid worker from one supermarket taking food from another supermarket skip. She was arrested at home, handcuffed and marched off to a police station. How absurd, especially from companies that are making billions of pounds each year. All she wanted to do was feed her family and some close relatives.

What is wrong with giving it away at the end of its sale-by date? Many, many families would be glad of it. Sell it at half-price with a warning that you would not be responsible to any illness etc the day before and there would be no waste and profits could even increase.

There is one more total waste of a food supply before I close. What about the many tons of fish that are thrown overboard by trawlers and other fishing craft because they have exceeded their quota?

Those fish are dead before they hit the water. What is the point in that?

I know certain species have to be protected, but it seems absurd to catch something which then has to be thrown back to sink to the bottom of the ocean.

Maybe it is time for Mr Cameron and his cabinet to take a closer look at our wasteful supermarkets and European fishing policy and make them use the food instead of it being dumped.

There can be no logic in flying something from the other side of the world and at the end of the day dumping it in a skip.