It is indeed obscene that half the world throws food away while
the other half starves.
Yet it would be a mistake to blame Western greed for the
waste of food that is needed in the Third World.
Most children in the West have at some time been urged to
eat everything on their plates with words on the lines of “There are starving
people in Africa who would be grateful for that.”
To which the usual response was “Well, send it to them
Of course, putting an eight-year old’s leftovers in the post
was never an economic option. Big international sales are the only viable
solution, but they raise their own logistical and political difficulties.
Agricultural policies and restrictive trade practices make the problem worse.
Even within nations, there are legal restrictions that make
it harder to feed the poor.
It used to be common practice for untouched surplus stock
from restaurants, shops, and social events to be sold cheaply, or even given
free to the elderly or to shelters for the homeless.
However, increasingly restrictive food safety laws now make
Instead entrepreneurs with catering businesses tell
heart-breaking stories of how tons of perfectly good unsold food must be
physically destroyed every day.
Food safety regulations are among the oldest laws in the
world – they form a considerable part of the Torah – and no one in their right
mind would argue that they are unnecessary. To make profits by deliberately or
negligently selling bad food is a breach of trust worthy of the harshest
punishments. Yet perhaps the balance has gone too far in one direction if so
much of such a valuable and limited resource is being wasted.
So entrepreneurs who are making a lot of money by
openly selling cheap food that is “out of date” but still safe may be
performing a morally right act.
They are providing the poor and the hungry with food at an
affordable price, and they are cutting down on the obscenity of waste. If they
make money in the process, good for them – so long as they are careful to
ensure that the food they sell is untainted.
To push the boundaries a little is no bad thing – but those
who cross the line when it comes to safety are fools.