Food wastage a growing concern for UAE

Experts at the World Food Security Summit in Dubai on Monday stressed the importance of tackling food wastage in the UAE.

A lot of food is not being eaten during big events, and experts say waste can become a huge challenge if not tackled. Sarah Dea / The National
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DUBAI // More must be done to tackle food waste in the UAE – that was the message from experts at the World Food Security Summit, held at the Gulf Food Exhibition in Dubai on Monday.

They said wasted food was just as important an issue as food security. “Unfortunately we all contribute to food wastage on a big scale,” said Amin Khayyal, the general manager at American chemical and biosciences company DuPont.

“We go to places, such as conferences, weddings and other events, where a lot of food is not being used. If it is not being tackled in a timely manner, then it can become a huge challenge.”

He said that it was crucial to educate people about not wasting food from a kindergarten age. Quintin Gray, the agricultural counsellor at the US consulate in Dubai, said awareness must be raised about the impact of food waste.

“Education should be provided both to children and to adults, especially in a society where food is plenty and one tends not to think about the countries where food losses are occurring,” he said.

Mr Gray said food waste was a global problem. “In America, food wastage is 30 per cent, which is equal to the food wastage in Africa. We cannot be allowed to waste food,” he said.

Mr Zaid A L, a branch manager at a Dubai grocery chain, said that his team had no other option but to throw out edible items such as bread and milk if they are not consumed within the given dates, despite being fit for consumption.

“We have to do it otherwise we will be fined if we still sell the products that cross the expiry date. Sometimes we have to throw dozens of bread packets in the trash, just because they were not sold,” he said.

Mr A L, from India, said that there was an urgent need to formulate a policy and regulation regarding food wastage.

“I belong to a country where millions cannot have a single meal for several days. I know the importance of a piece of bread and a biscuit, even if it is in an expiry date. But I feel helpless,” he said.

Mr Nauman Shakoor, who runs Best Kitchen, an Indian restaurant in Mussaffah, said that wasted food was a major challenge, especially in the restaurant industry. “We know many high-end restaurants throw the remaining food into the trash. But there are several restaurants in the country that distribute the remaining food among labourers, either for free or at minimal cost.

“My restaurant has chosen the second option and we sell the food box at a very minimal price to the labourers,” said Mr Shakoor.

Mr Shakoor said that Islam prohibits food waste and his team found it to be a better option than throwing it in the bin.

“Our restaurant is close to many labour camps and we realise that it will be much better to serve the community,” he said.

Mr Shakoor said that his team made sure that they were not selling low-quality or expired, or rotten food to the workers.

“We believe in not wasting food, but are strictly against the idea of giving unhygienic or low-quality food to workers,” he said.

More than 400 food experts, growers, retailers and investors took part in Monday’s World Food Security Summit.