Tuesday, May 20, 2008

More on Food

After the remarks on Indian food consumption by President Bush which I discussed in an earlier post, the issue seems to be here to stay. The Indians got into the act, asking Americans to eat less - of course only lower level flunkies in the Government were involved in this, in keeping with our new-found closeness to the US. The same article however quoted United Nations sources to claim that Americans consume 3770 calories per person, per day compared to 2440 calories for Indians. These numbers beggars belief -- its unlikely, if not impossible, that American food consumption is a mere one and a half times that of an average Indian. Given India's large swathes of poverty stricken regions, the average, one would imagine, could easily be about a tenth of the American number or thereabouts. Yet another article on Sunday, May 18th, tells us that Americans waste 27% of food available for consumption - that's about a pound of food per American per day. Some of the numbers in the article are truly staggering -- in 1997, in one of the few studies of food waste, the Department of Agriculture estimated that two years before, 96.4 billion pounds of the 356 billion pounds of edible food in the United States was never eaten; a more recent study by the Environmental Protection Agency estimated that Americans generate roughly 30 million tons of food waste each year, which is about 12 percent of the total waste stream...well, you get the picture. Lest it sound like we are blaming everything on the Americans, the Europeans are no slouch -- Britons toss away a third of the food they purchase, including more than four million whole apples, 1.2 million sausages and 2.8 million tomatoes (wonder how they tallied up these numbers!). In Sweden, families with small children threw out about a quarter of the food they bought, a recent study there found. Of course none of this is new. It so happens that rising food prices all over the world have dented the comfort zone of even the developed world and high food prices, coupled with high gasoline prices have begun to hurt. According to a Department of Agriculture estimate recovering just 5 percent of the food that is wasted could feed four million people a day; recovering 25 percent would feed 20 million people. Small numbers perhaps, when compared with the number of destitute and hungry people in the world, but not insignificant. There is now even a blog which discusses waste issues. However, none of the tips there sound too innovative, at least to Indians. Even in the 21st century, where everyone is rushing to catch up with the prosperous West and emulate their habits, I suspect food wastage is not a serious issue in India at least in homes. (Instead we probably lose vast quantities of grain which just rot in the godowns of the FCI). For this we need to thank generations of parents growing up in the spartan environment of an earlier age, who always brought up their children not to waste food and not leave any uneaten food on one's plate. I would like to hope that this attitude has percolated into the psyche of most Indians.

1 comment:

AMOK said...

This is a touchy subject. Rogue nations. Weapons of mass destruction. Greenhouse gases. Environmental pollution. Energy consumption. Nuclear waste. Do as I say, not as I do. A recent example would be friend Eliot. From your favourite Wiki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eliot_Spitzer