Canadian Institute for Business and the Environment
Fisherville, Ontario, Canada
Tel. 416 410-0432, Fax: 416 362-5231
Vol. 16, No. 3, June 28, 2011
Honoured Reader Edition

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We open with a guest editorial from well-known climate campaigner and college professor Bill McKibben that is so much on the mark that we decided that it should be reprinted for Gallon Environment Letter readers.

Our feature topic in this issue is Food Waste and we begin by pointing out what a complex but important issue this is. There is no shortage of food for the world's population but there is a huge amount of waste and maldistribution which means that millions are starving. The amount of information about food waste and its causes is staggering. The amount of action to reduce food waste, especially in Canada, is a tiny fraction of what is needed! If you have any interest at all in food, we think you will find this issue of Gallon Environment Letter absolutely fascinating. As you might expect, even measuring food loss is a challenge. With help from USDA we explore the challenges of measuring food loss.

We also review Ontario Environment Commissioner's report on the Province's progress towards meeting GHG targets. Ontario is doing well but is still not expected to meet the targets. Of particular interest in this issue: one of the biggest problem areas is organic waste, something that should be one of the easiest to address. If you wonder where pathogens like E. Coli come from, some scientists are pointing fingers towards — the way we deal with food waste!

We received some letters on the food miles issue we addressed in the last issue and published one. As Jessie Davidson, a member of the National Farmers Union, has said, limiting local food to food produced within 50 km, even with all the complications of the CFIA calculation, is a throwback to horse and buggy days. Everyone else seems happy to consider local food as food produced with 100kn or 100 miles. Why does CFIA have to block something that everyone else understands, unless it is at the behest of large food processors and packers who want to try to shut down the local food movement.

Lots of our readers will know Geoff Rathbone, most recently a General Manager of Solid Waste at the City of Toronto and an avid and extremely informed professional municipal recycler. His recent move to the private sector has caused a small ruckus. In our People section we bring you the details, all to do with outsourcing of municipal collections. There are also some changes at the well-respected Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy - we bring you the highlights.

Finally, we once again draw your attention to our new GallonDaily. Get more for your money, even if you are an honoured reader, by keeping up to date with GallonDaily ( Recent headlines include:
                        Leaked emails trash business of shale gas
                        Predictions for Sustainable Packaging
                        Green Manufacturing Expo Disappointing
                        Oregon adopts strict water quality regime
                        China, children and lead

In our next issue we plan to review technologies for dealing with organics, including both waste food and the waste from the back end of humans and our farm animals. In the meantime, enjoy this issue and send us your comments as a Letter to the Editor to

By Bill McKibben
[This article was first published as an op-ed piece in the Washington Post. May 23, 2011. Reprinted with permission.]

Caution: It is vitally important not to make connections. When you see pictures of rubble like this week’s shots from Joplin, Mo., you should not wonder: Is this somehow related to the tornado outbreak three weeks ago in Tuscaloosa, Ala., or the enormous outbreak a couple of weeks before that (which, together, comprised the most active April for tornadoes in U.S. history). No, that doesn’t mean a thing.

It is far better to think of these as isolated, unpredictable, discrete events. It is not advisable to try to connect them in your mind with, say, the fires burning across Texas — fires that have burned more of America at this point this year than any wildfires have in previous years. Texas, and adjoining parts of Oklahoma and New Mexico, are drier than they’ve ever been — the drought is worse than that of the Dust Bowl. But do not wonder if they’re somehow connected.

If you did wonder, you see, you would also have to wonder about whether this year’s record snowfalls and rainfalls across the Midwest — resulting in record flooding along the Mississippi — could somehow be related. And then you might find your thoughts wandering to, oh, global warming, and to the fact that climatologists have been predicting for years that as we flood the atmosphere with carbon we will also start both drying and flooding the planet, since warm air holds more water vapour than cold air.

It’s far smarter to repeat to yourself the comforting mantra that no single weather event can ever be directly tied to climate change. There have been tornadoes before, and floods — that’s the important thing. Just be careful to make sure you don’t let yourself wonder why all these record-breaking events are happening in such proximity — that is, why there have been unprecedented megafloods in Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan in the past year. Why it’s just now that the Arctic has melted for the first time in thousands of years. No, better to focus on the immediate casualties, watch the videotape from the store cameras as the shelves are blown over. Look at the news anchorman standing in his waders in the rising river as the water approaches his chest.

Because if you asked yourself what it meant that the Amazon has just come through its second hundred-year drought in the past five years, or that the pine forests across the western part of this continent have been obliterated by a beetle in the past decade — well, you might have to ask other questions. Such as: Should President Obama really just have opened a huge swath of Wyoming to new coal mining? Should Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sign a permit this summer allowing a huge new pipeline to carry oil from the tar sands of Alberta? You might also have to ask yourself: Do we have a bigger problem than $4-a-gallon gasoline?

Better to join with the U.S. House of Representatives, which voted 240 to 184 this spring to defeat a resolution saying simply that “climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for public health and welfare.” Propose your own physics; ignore physics altogether. Just don’t start asking yourself whether there might be some relation among last year’s failed grain harvest from the Russian heat wave, and Queensland’s failed grain harvest from its record flood, and France’s and Germany’s current drought-related crop failures, and the death of the winter wheat crop in Texas, and the inability of Midwestern farmers to get corn planted in their sodden fields. Surely the record food prices are just freak outliers, not signs of anything systemic.

It’s very important to stay calm. If you got upset about any of this, you might forget how important it is not to disrupt the record profits of our fossil fuel companies. If worst ever did come to worst, it’s reassuring to remember what the U.S. Chamber of Commerce told the Environmental Protection Agency in a recent filing: that there’s no need to worry because “populations can acclimatize to warmer climates via a range of behavioural, physiological, and technological adaptations.” I’m pretty sure that’s what residents are telling themselves in Joplin today.

Bill McKibben is founder of the global climate campaign and a distinguished scholar at Middlebury College in Vermont.


Dr. Bob Page, one of Canada's leaders in Sustainable Development, has not been renewed as Chair of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. Dr. Page was appointed to the position by Environment Minister John Baird in June 2008. Apparently when his position came up for renewal this year He Who Must Be Obeyed [and who does not want to have his government forced into addressing climate change] decided that the Round Table had been too outspoken on the subject of climate change and that Page, as leader of that body, should be the fall guy.

Dr. Page is currently TransAlta Professor of Environmental Management and Sustainability, Energy and Environmental Systems Group, Institute for Sustainable Energy, Environment, & Economy, at the University of Calgary, where he is also an Adjunct Professor in the Haskayne School of Business. From 1997 to January 2007 he was the Vice President Sustainable Development, TransAlta Corporation, Calgary, where he led their significant efforts on climate change, emissions, and sustainable development. Prior to joining TransAlta in 1997, Dr. Page spent 25 years in consulting, academic teaching and research. Most recently, he was Dean of the Faculty of Environmental Design at the University of Calgary, where he taught in the Environmental Science program.

It is difficult to imagine a more appropriate guy to lead the NRTEE than Bob Page. However, Dr. Robert Slater, a leader in science policy within Environment Canada for thirty years and a great and knowledgeable proponent of Sustainable Development and action on climate change, has been appointed Interim Chair to replace Page while a more complete search takes place. Slater is currently Adjunct Professor in Environmental Policy at Carleton University, President of Coleman, Bright and Associates, a consulting firm that operates internationally specializing in Sustainable Development issues, and a Senior Fellow with the International Institute for Sustainable Development. The one attribute that Slater may have that Page may have lacked is knowing when, in government, to keep quiet.

Although NRTEE's funding has been renewed for 2011-2012, whisperings are that the new Chair may only be appointed for a one year term pending a future defunding of NRTEE. After all, Sustainable Development is clearly something about which He Who Must Be Obeyed knows everything that there is to know. In Ottawa today, both science and advice are as unnecessary as they have ever been.

Food waste is one of the most interconnected of issues. Just describing its causes is a big task. Decline of bats due to white nose fungus and death by wind turbine may lead to more crop damage by insects because bats eat many crop pests. Droughts, floods, wild fires and other events linked to extreme weather which some scientists say are symptomatic of climate change devastate crops.

The unlevel playing fields between smaller suppliers and large corporate buyers leads to specifications which lead to food being returned to the sender as rejects. Regulators often tilt the scale further. Way too much edible food is discarded due to consumer confusion about "best before", "packed on", "sell by", "use by" and "display until" labelling. Regulators formulate product regulations which have nothing to do with food safety. The EU is working on reducing food waste by changing some of it rules such as the one that used to ban bent bananas. Many farmers grow crops they can’t sell because they can’t connect to the markets or can’t meet some of the standards which often have nothing to do with food safety. Our local Fisherville Greenhouses can sell grape tomatoes into a wider distribution chain because the tomatoes are exempt from grading but for beefsteak farm products legislation requires that tomatoes be of a consistent size in a pack and other specification which the owners find too onerous so they sell beefsteak tomatoes at the farmgate, a very small market leading to more waste.

When prices for crops such as potatoes are lower than it costs the farmer to harvest, the crop is ploughed under. Too high prices lead to illegal poaching such as of the abalone, the big sea snail, on the coast of British Columbia. Abalone has become another endangered species. Recently stories in the Canadian media have featured the waste inherent in high-priced gourmet meals such as shark’s fin soup. The shark’s fins are cut off and the rest of the shark thrown back into the sea. Waste associated with fishing due to disposal of by-products (fish and other animals caught but not wanted) is being addressed by the European Union. The ocean is a source of food for billions of people and the recent very negative assessment of the state of the oceans is not good news.

Pollution including nuclear disasters, chemical and oil spills also cause food waste which ricochets through food production, food manufacturing, household food, distribution and retail. For example, restaurants in Tokyo have seen decreased number of customers who formerly enjoyed the special fish dishes but are now afraid of radioactivity on the food. The dead zones caused by excessive nitrogen runoff from intensive agriculture operations (which perhaps ironically are seen as necessary in order to produce more food) may lead to a takeover by jellyfish pushing out edible marine species.


A report last winter by the George Morris Centre in Guelph, Ontario starts with "Along with the rest of the world, Canada invests enormous resources in seeking ways to feed a growing population through increased production. Far fewer resources are invested in making more effective use of the food already produced, even though doing so would have immediate results."

High Cost to Food Waste

The difference between what is produced on farms, processed, distributed and sold annually compared to what is consumed is worth more than $27 billion or 2% of GDP. The food loss/waste is 40% of food produced. . That amount is more than the combined GDP of the 32 poorest countries in the world. It is more than the value of the food Canada imported in 2007 and just less than the value of 2007 food exports. The price tag only includes the actual value of the food not all the other costs such as impact to the environment, the agri-food industry and the economy. Energy, water, packaging, equipment repair and replacement, and the release of methane from landfill are costs not included.

Food Miles and Plastic Packaging Impacts Small

The report dismisses the emphasis put on food miles saying that food miles add only 3% to food waste and not much more to greenhouse emissions. Sometimes local food production result in increased waste e.g. one study indicated that more Ontario-grown peaches go to waste than California-grown peaches.
Plastic packaging is also seen to have benefits for reducing environmental impacts e.g. plastic is lighter than glass reducing transportation weight. Much more attention should be given to the environmental impacts of food waste than to plastic packaging.

Causes of Primary Food Waste

The report lists seven causes of food waste:
  • overproduction. Too much food or the inadequate flow of products along the chain.
  • defects in products or equipment. Short shelf-life, poor quality products, equipment not functioning well, communication and delivery errors.
  • unnecessary inventory even in households: creates spoilage due to excessive delays.
  • inappropriate processing. incorrect procedures or system.
  • excess transportation: complex movement of products or information.
  • waiting. Long periods of inactivity and long lead times lead to increased spoilage.
  • unnecessary motion: poor design in the workplace can lead to lost or damaged items.
Food Waste in Canada: Statistics

Half of the $27 billion of food wasted occurs in households. Reasons consumer waste food include cooking too much, not using food in time and being leery of whether leftovers are still good. Foods benefiting from refrigeration such as meat and fish, ready meals and pre-prepared foods, dairy products, fruits and vegetables were most commonly wasted.

Of the food waste created, the sources from field to home in Canada are:
  • field 9%
  • transportation/distribution 3%
  • food Service/HRI (Hotel/Restaurant/Institutional) 8%
  • packaging/processing 18%
  • retail stores 11%
  • homes 51%
The authors had to guesstimate these numbers based on interviews with people working in the sector and extrapolate. The average waste at retail was estimated using Loblaw annual waste of $1 billion and extrapolating from the company's market share of 33%. Average waste at the field is estimated to be 5% but each crop varies with little waste in grain and 10-15% in fruit and vegetable production. An estimate is that a well-run restaurant shouldn't have more than 5% food waste due to breakage, spills, and overcooking. Uneaten food accounts for another 5%.

Gallon wonders whether these statistics indicate that eating out reduces food waste.

Examples of Practices Leading to More Food Waste

Some of the issues which lead to increased food waste are:
  • Grocery fliers encourage consumers to seek food by lowest price often based on buying larger quantities.
  • Consumers buy more than they need and waste it.
  • At the processor level, waste occurs when products delivered don't meet specification meaning that the product has to be sold elsewhere at a discount.
  • Livestock producers feed up the animals to get higher prices because prices are per kilogram but then the processor has to trim the fat and dispose of it.
  • Up to 75% of raspberries are lost because they require processes to protect them from picking, post harvest cooling and shipping.
  • 6% of wheat shipments to one miller were rejected because of on-farm processes for growing, harvesting and storing wheat which downgraded the quality.
  • Farm support and risk management programs reduce the need for farmers to respond to market signals, "Many continue producing what they've always produced, in the same way they've always produced it." Those who wish to change can't because of the current system and policies and legislation. Regulators focus on sectors and commodities instead of products and processes leading to waste and increased costs.
Examples of Better Practices Relating to Food Waste

Some of the ideas for reducing food waste or the negative impacts are::
  • Energy to waste (biogas): more leadership for energy from waste technology instead of dumping organic waste to landfill.
  • Triple Bottom Line: When businesses reduce waste, they usually improve their profits and reduce their environmental footprint.
  • Tesco (UK): Buy One Get One Free BOGOF; consumers can buy one and get a coupon to get the other free within the next two weeks. Many smaller households see increased value in shopping at Tesco.
  • Warburton (UK): offers small loaf bread which still has full size slices. The demand for this bread has resulted in expansion with more different breads produced.
  • Grocers in the UK are providing information to help consumers understand how to store food e.g. put meat into an airtight container or freeze some products. Recipes for leftovers are also provided.
The authors conclude that Canada is behind Europe in terms of encouraging all those along the food chain to reduce waste and that there is much to be done with many benefits all along the food chain.

The Value Chain Management Centre is part of the George Morris Centre in Guelph, Ontario which works on contract with a focus on agriproducts.

The references in the report provides links to the major reports done in the UK on food waste.

Paid subscribers see link to original documents and references here.


“Dial for Dining", Canada's first 24 hour hospital food service, allows patients, family members and staff at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax to order what they want and when they want it. Last year, the program was awarded a 3M Health Care Quality Team Award by 3M Health Care and the Canadian College of Health Service Executives.

People can order by phone anytime between 7 am and 5 pm. The menu is wide range including specifying your own pasta or sandwich, fresh fruit and vegetables, and an all day breakfast. Family members can help and so do staff with adjustments for patients with dementia. Food waste is reduced because patients order only what they want to eat with a much greater range and they can order closer to the time when they feel like eating. In the past, paper menus with one or two choices were handed out, say on Sunday for meals on Tuesday. Patients might have left (in one way or another), might not feel good at mealtime or felt the choice they made two days ago wasn't what they wanted today. Some patients are used to eating at different times than the traditional hospital schedule. One estimate is that between 30% - 50% of the food was sent back. Some patients were not meeting their nutritional needs during a stressful time of illness. Under the new system, the food is made from scratch and arrives hot and fresh within 40 minutes of ordering. Other hospitals are adopting the model.

Paid subscribers see link to original documents and references here.
Although one might think that most of the waste from a hospital is biomedical (ie hazardous) waste, according to the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, most of the waste generated by a hospital is non-hazardous solid waste much like that of an office building, mostly paper, cardboard, metal and food waste, which could be diverted through a recycling program.
A 2006 Saskatchewan Waste Reduction Council estimates that only 15% of hospital waste is biomedical, chemical and liquid, laboratory, pharmaceutical or hazardous. Typical hospital waste is 53% paper, 4% diapers, 14% plastic, with less than 5% each for yard trimmings, glass, metals and other. Food and organic waste is 17%. The factsheet from SWRC states, "A large training hospital can produce as much waste as a small town! Care and treatment of the average hospital patient typically produces about 5.5 kilograms of waste each day. That translates to over 400 tonnes of waste each year from a medium-sized hospital with 200 beds."
A report from Aramark Canada which provides food services to hospitals and other facilities outlined some of the programs in hospitals to reduce food waste through literature review, case studies, and interviews with healthcare managers in food service. Included as a source of information was a survey of 120 food service managers in Ontario. Some of the observations from that survey were:
  • Waste Audits: Almost half of the hospital food service departments (49% in the Ontario survey) do no waste auditing of the waste stream. Many items returned on the food tray are non-food such as milk and juice containers, paper menu cars, condiments, napkins and straws. By conducting a waste audit, some hospital food managers have reduced cost and eliminated waste by providing condiments or straws only if the patient asks for them. Also most patients don't eat very sweet desserts such as cakes so changing the menu also helps reduce waste.
  • Purchasing Decisions: Only 4% of food service managers guided purchasing based on products with the least amount of packaging. While some hospitals reduce packaging by bulk purchases, e.g. milk in bulk rather than individual containers, most suggest that the cost of labour is too high. 
  • Software: The survey indicated that 60% of facilities used some kind of forecasting software to reduce food waste.
  • Portions: Patients often have reduced appetite due to illness and lack of exercise. The meal usually includes appetizer and dessert as well as the main course. Staff often overportion the amount on the entrée plate. Enforcing portion control reduces waste. Tools to manage portions includes random audits of the amount of food on plates, auditing of how many portions should be in a bulk package e.g. how many portions in a bag of vegetables and use of appropriate serving utensils.
  • Source Separation: 65% of Ontario hospitals surveyed disposed of food, milk cartons, plastic juice containers, aluminium foil, napkins and tea bags in the regular waste stream. 68% had no system for sending compostable/ organic items to a major composting site sending these to regular waste. For many, the main obstacle was the labour costs for separating waste.
  • Compostables should include tissue papers: Of the 32% of Ontario hospitals with an organic waste stream, less than half included paper towels and napkins disposing of these in regular waste rather than organic materials waste.
Paid subscribers see link to original documents and references here.
The top 20 trends identified at the US National Restaurant Association's What's Hot survey of 1500 professional chefs indicates that more diners express an interest in sustainable issues including the source of the food such as local sourcing, healthy choices, organic produce and sustainable seafood. One of the top 20 trends is smaller portions for a smaller price. GL's editor thinks this is a great trend and wouldn't even mind if the price wasn't that much smaller. Some of the other options for reducing portion size such as choosing from the appetizer menu or sharing a main course don't seem to suit some of our relatives. Brought up with the idea that one is required to eat everything on the plate because some children somewhere are going hungry, they are put off by gargantuan servings and when together we have given quite a few restaurants the go-by because the displayed menu didn't appear to give the choice of smaller meals. Many restaurants can't reduce the size because they buy pre-packaged meals which require little in the way of skilled labour to prepare.
Some restaurants have gained customers from huge servings, all-you-can-eat buffets, and bottomless refills of soft drinks, so many extra and unneeded calories.The Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, Texas is known for its challenge: eat the 72 oz. steak with fixins (a baked potato, salad, dinner roll and shrimp cocktail) and you get it free. There are rules like once you start you can't go to the bathroom and the food has to be eaten within an hour. When Gallon’s editor visited many years ago, the enormous slab of steak was on display in a cooler. Nobody took the challenge while we were there but many have tried, many have failed. The restaurant and its offer have become world famous.
Paid subscribers see link to original documents and references here.
Canadians spent $75 billion on food and non-alcoholic drinks from retail stores in 2007. Spending on beer, wine and liquor was $17 billion for a total of $92 billion. For 2007, Statistics Canada says food loss from retail through the plate was over 6 million tonnes or 183 kg. per person. Of the solid food available for retail sale, this represents 38% of solid food by weight wasted. In addition, 2.8 billion litres of liquids such as milk, coffee, tea, pop and juices were discarded. This does not include food at the farm level or processing.
In 2007, Canadians in addition to retail purchases spent $41 billion on restaurant meals and $9 billion on alcoholic beverages in licensed establishments or $50 billion in total.
In 1913, families in cities paid more than half of their weekly budget on food. By 1961, spending on food including restaurant meals and alcohol was 28% of total consumer spending in Canada. By 2007, that figure was 17%.
Energy is used along the chain such as for tilling the land, producing fertilizers, insecticides and herbicides, and electricity for washing and processing the food. Statistics Canada states that for 2003, Canadian purchases on food and non-alcoholic beverages from stores resulted "in production of 45,687 kilotonnes of greenhouse gases, equivalent
to 14% of all the direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions attributable to households."
The statistics are in a special section of the 2009 Human Activity and the Environment called Food in Canada.
Canada. Statistics Canada. Human Activity and the Environment: Annual Statistics 2009. Food in Canada section. Ottawa, Ontario: June 2009.
A recent report published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) issued in May at the Interpack2011 conference in Germany discussed two studies by The Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology SIK on global food losses. The first study was on high/medium income countries and the second on low income countries. Among some of the comments were:
  • Roughly a third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally or about 1.3 billion tons each year. Counting only the edible parts of food, food production in Europe and North America is about 900 kg/year per capita and in Subsaharan Africa and South/southeast Asia 460 kg/year. Within the food chain, food loss in Europe and North America is 280-300 kg/year and for Subsaharan Africa and South/southeast Asia is 120-170 kg./year.
  • The wasted food also then wastes all the resources used to produce, store, and transport it.
  • Every stage of the food supply chain loses and wastes food. In higher income countries, food is wasted at the early stage of in the chain and primarily at the consumption stage even though it is still edible. In lower income countries, food is lost in the early and middle stages: poor consumers waste much less.
  • Consumers in industrialized countries waste almost as much food (222 million ton) a year as is produced in sub-Saharan Africa (230 million ton). Per capita food wasted by consumers in Europe and North-America is 95-115 kg/year, while in sub-Saharan Africa and South/Southeast Asia, per capita food waste is only 6-11 kg/year.
Food loss is the term used in the report to the decrease in edible food mass in the earlier parts of the supply chain (production e.g. farms, post harvest and processing). Food loss at the end of the food chain e.g. retail and consumers is mostly called food waste. If food was originally intended for human consumption but is diverted to non-food use such as animal feed, bioenergy or other uses, that food is still counted in the food loss. If the crop was grown and intended for non-food use e.g. corn for biofuels than it is not counted as food loss.
The report discusses five system boundaries or segments in the food supply chains for each of the two categories: vegetable and animal (including fish and seafood) commodities. Examples include:
  • Segment: processing for vegetables. This includes spillage and degradation during industrial or domestic processing such as juice production, canning and bread baking. Losses may be due to sorting out of crops which don't meet specification, or washing, peeling, slicing, boiling. Accidental spillage, failures in the production line and interruptions may lead to spoilage.
  • Segment: postharvest handling and storage for bovine, pork and poultry meat: Losses may be due to animal death during transport to slaughter and condemnation at slaughterhouse. For fish, losses may be due to spillage and degradation during icing, packaging, storage and transport.
Food security is a big issue in the developing world. Reducing food loss is one of the ways to increase the supply of food without the challenges of increasing food production, "In a world with limited natural resources (land, water, energy, fertilizer) and where cost-effective solutions are to be found to produce enough safe and nutritious food for all, reducing food losses should not be a forgotten priority."
Lack of access to food for the poor consumer is mostly due to lack of purchasing power and food prices rather than food supply. However, reducing waste could be one way of reducing the cost of food.
Answers to questions about how much food is lost and wasted and how to prevent food losses are imprecise. The report recommend urgent action to fill the big data gaps.
Reasons for Food Loss
In lower income countries, causes of food loss are due to financial, management and technical limitations related to harvesting, storage and cooling facilities in regions where climate is adverse and infrastructure, packaging and marketing systems are not supportive for food loss prevention. Smallholder farmers would experience an immediate improvement in their lives if food losses were reduced. Small farmers need to be involved in cooperative organizations, and upscale both production and marketing. Public and private investment in infrastructure, transportation, food industries and packaging industries would make a significant difference.
In medium/high-income countries, consumer behaviour is key to food waste as well as lack of coordination between different actors in the supply chain. Contract specifications and other aspects of agreements between farmers and buyers leads to more waste due, for example, to quality standards which require food items to be a certain size or shape. Poor purchase planning and best before dates cause a lot of waste as well as a poor attitudes because consumers can afford to waste food. More awareness and connections between those in the food value chain would reduce food waste. Also needed are more initiatives to redirect and use food that is still safe to eat.
Paid subscribers see link to original documents and references here.
The Netherlands Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality LNV in 2008 produced a policy document on food sustainability not only for the Netherlands but for the Netherland's role in global food system. The policy relates to other policy documents on sustainable agriculture, healthy diet throughout life and the government-wide approach to sustainable development. One of the themes was that producers and consumers are not charged the full societal cost of a product: "Both supply and demand must be confronted with the external costs of production and consumption."
The policy set a target for reducing food wastage throughout the food chain by 20% by 2015 including:
  • Adding value to the waste streams in the whole chain while retaining food for human consumption such as recycling into compost, biomass and animal feed.
  • Reviewing the European Union ban on making bonemeal and meatmeal from carcass meat. Despite the ban due to concerns about BSE, using this raw material should be addressed.
  • Pilot a project within the ministry to offer a 100% sustainable range of food in the canteen while reducing both food and other waste produced in the canteen.
The policy also provides for funding to research substitutes for conventional meats such as algae, insects and artificial meat protein, alternatives to soy for animal feed and recovering protein from manure and other sources.
The stakeholders in the food chain never expressed much interest in supporting the policy. With the election in 2010, the ministry name changed to Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation with emphasis on the private sector to drive the economy. Priorities are a fiscal policy favourable to business although business practices should take nature and animal welfare into account.
Paid subscribers see link to original documents and references here.
In his new book, World on the Edge, Lester Brown, president of Earth Policy Institute in Washington, DC, explores many issues including food security, "The choice is ours - yours and mine. We can stay with business as usual and preside over an economy that continues to destroy its natural support system until it destroys itself or we can be the generation that changes direction, moving the world onto a path of sustained progress. The choice will be made by our generation, but it will affect life on earth for all generations to come." Although the future view could be gloomy, Brown as always highlights the positive:
Some innovations in food production which increase food supply and reduce food lost for human consumption include:
  • residue feed: India became the leading producer of milk and other dairy products in 1997. Grain feed has been replaced by crop residues such as wheat straw, rice straw and corn stalks as well as grass gathered from roadsides. India produces more value in milk than in rice. Gallon notes that many people think that using crops which could feed people as animal feed is food waste.
  • agroforestry: Both food and energy are provided by combining grains with nitrogen fixing trees. The trees grow slowly enough to allow for the grain to be harvested. The leaves of the trees drop unto to the soil increasing its fertility and then the trees are cut to provide fuelwood. The technique has been developed at the World Agroforestry Centre in Nairobi.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Gallon notes that Andrew Gordon from the University of Guelph in Ontario has been promoting intercropping of valuable tree species and agricultural crops since the 1980s. The first North American Agroforestry in North America conference was held in 1989. The trees don't have to be cut down if they are producing a high value food crop. For example, Ernie Grimo, one of the founders of the Society of Ontario Nut Growers SONG and owner of a nut tree nursery in Niagara-on-the-Lake recommends heartnut trees for southern Ontario as an early to mature tree with easily cracked nuts. The trees are planted a large distance apart because their mature width is 20-30 metres, that is wider for one tree than the frontage of many city lots. He and other commercial nut growers in Ontario meet only a small percentage of the demand for nuts including butternut, hickory, and Persian (northern walnut) but are able to obtain higher than world prices because of the demand for local supply.
  • water shortage: losses due to drought are decimating crops. Drip irrigation and other ways of delivering water with minimal losses help to increase yields. The potential exists to recycle urban water and to convert to wind power reducing the huge amounts of water used for cooling coal-fired power plants.
  • aquaculture: Some fish farming such as open sea salmon farming waste food by the feeding of large amounts of fishmeal from wild caught fish. Some countries such as carp in China and India and catfish in the US are much more efficient in protein production using grain instead of fishmeal. Many of China's farmed fish are grown in inland freshwater ponds, lakes, reservoirs and rice paddies. Using four types of carp which feed at different levels of the food chain increases productivity.
  • local food demand: localization is increasing the number of farms which in the US grew by 80,000 to 2.2 million. Many of these are smaller farms operated by women producing fresh fruits and vegetables and specialized products of milk, cheese and meat. Organic farms grew from 12,000 in 2002 to 18,200 in 2007. Farmers' market increased in 1,755 in 1994 to over 6,100 in 2010. Gallon doesn't know if local food reduces food loss but certainly the knowledge, skill and land use which often substitutes labour for machinery increases the supply of food.
  • home/urban gardening: Michelle Obama's initiative to use part of the White House lawn for food production highlights the potential of gardening to supply food. Home lawns in the US cover 18 million acres. During World War 2, home gardening called Victory Gardens supplied 40% of the US fruits and vegetables. A program by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization helped 20,000 urban gardeners in the capital city Kinshasa, of the Congo supplying 80,000 tons of vegetables per year or 65% of the city's demand.
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The US Department of Agriculture first began to publish data on the availability of food and nutrients in 1941 and later extended the data back to 1909. The data measures food supply for over 200 food commodities such as beef, fresh apples and eggs. The Food Availability data presents the sum of production, imports and beginning inventories and subtracts exports, farm and industrial uses and ending stocks. Over time the ERS developed methods for accounting for spoilage and other losses resulting in the Loss-Adjusted Food Availability data series. Three general types of losses are calculated:
"(1) loss from primary (e.g., farm) to retail weight.
(2) loss at the retail level (e.g., in supermarkets, megastores such as Walmart, and other retail outlets, including convenience stores and mom-and-pop grocery stores). This type of loss does not include losses in restaurants and other foodservice outlets.
(3) loss at the consumer level. This includes losses for food consumed at home and away from home (e.g., restaurants, fast-food outlets, school and company cafeterias, hospitals, nursing homes, catered events, etc.) by consumers and foodservice and has two components:
(a) “Nonedible share” of a food (e.g., asparagus stalk, apple core). Data on the nonedible share are from the National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, compiled by USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2007).
(b) “Cooking loss and uneaten food such as plate waste” from the edible share."
ERS has been working on updating its data and has produced several reports. See next articles for one on consumer food waste and one on supermarket waste. The reports highlight the complexity of compiling such data while maintaining a reasonable level of credibility about data accuracy.
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The USDA Economic Research Service reports on food availability less food losses and it is a ongoing effort to keep up to date with food trends. Consumer loss is the least documented due to limited research and data complications because consumers eat both at home and away from home. A January 2011 report on losses at the consumer level shows both increases and decreases in food loss at the consumer level. So many things have changed over the years about the way Americans eat. At one time, a consumer might buy the whole chicken, occasionally even alive or with just the head removed. Everything about the chicken like the feet, the neck, the gizzard, heart, liver and so on would become some kind of food in the same home. Now to calculate food waste, people such as those at the US Department of Agriculture have to consider the transformation of the chicken to boneless chicken filet. Some foods such as grains and shortening are used almost exclusively as ingredients. Standard recipes are used as references to allocate ingredients by weight to the food categories. As consumers make different food choices, conversion factors change. Food purchased less food consumed equals food loss.
The changes in food behaviour make it more difficult to know where the inedible portions like the peelings and bones are removed; this raises the risk of double-counting the inedible portion. A chart provides a standard figure for inedible portions e.g. Unshelled walnuts have 55% inedible portion, and shelled walnuts have 0%.
There are five different processing types calculated: fresh, frozen, dried, canned and juice. Each type of food needs calculations to determining how much fresh product went into it, how much is inedible and edible and how much is lost. For example, for canned food, the liquid portion is subtracted from the solid portion. Mixtures such as peas and carrots require estimates allocating how much of each has been purchased. Calculations are based on weight so liquids have to be converted from volume to weight. Some food is sold by count not by weight e.g. bunch of radish, or broccoli. Eggs are sold by size so need to be converted to weight.
At the consumer level, surveys of householders are done but are often not reliable because people feel guilty about wasting food and during the survey adjust or report that they waste less. One survey provides them with a scanner and while many reliably scan their main grocery shopping, many forget to scan purchases from convenience stores and mid-week shopping like the extra milk and bread. Not very much research has been done on food loss at the consumer level with a new report out in January 2011 from ERS. Even when food waste is tracked by sorting through the garbage it doesn't provide an accurate figure because food might have been fed to pets, disposed of at the workplace, put in sink disposals or composted. Also some food isn't sourced from the traditional food chain (farm, supermarket, household), for example, hunting and fishing and and other wild sourcing such as wild blueberry picking, home gardening, backyard poultry, farmer's markets, local speciality shops such as bakeries and butchers.)
Consumer level food waste depends on:
  • season: more food waste in the summer
  • age of children: younger children waste more
  • gender: females waste more
  • income: higher income individuals waste more
  • setting: Hospitals and military canteens waste more than school and company cafeterias
  • size of households: larger households waste more (probably due to children)
Food waste occurs due to "cooking and preparation (e.g., frying fats); discards due to preparation of too much food; expired use-by/open dates; spoilage; and plate waste." The report which focuses on the edible portion suggests that consumer food loss is higher than currently calculated. Some of the foods commonly consumed have lower loss estimates e.g. fresh potatoes have a new estimate or 16% loss compared to the previous 30%.
Most meats have lower new losses e.g. beef is new 20% compared to previous 32% and chicken is new 15% compared to previous 40%. The lower loss rates are probably due to the fact these products are sold differently: they are trimmed more, sold boneless and ground meat has less fat which would often be thrown away.
On the other hand, for fresh bell peppers the new loss rate is 39% compared to the previous 20%. Some of the cheeses such as Mozzarella are new 31% compared to previous 13%. The report contains charts of consumer loss estimates for all the categories e.g. meat, poultry, fish, eggs and nuts. Gallon found it on the shocking side to see that for quite a few foods, a third or more e.g. frozen yoghurt, turkey, frozen corn and often close to half of the food e.g. eggnog was lost.
Food Eaten out vs at Home
Foodservices reduce some food loss compared to the home and increase other food loss:
  • foodservice more likely to monitor and purchase more frequently. Spoilage in households is likely greater.
  • foodservice reduce more waste by use of pre-portion and pre-trimmed products
  • foodservice likely to have more waste oils and fats due to more use of frying
  • foodservice likely to have larger portions than households with less control by individuals. Result is more plate waste.
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A report in 2009 on estimated food loss in supermarkets prepared for the USDA Economic Research Service highlights how difficult it is to estimate retail food loss. Estimates for losses of different commodities affect ERS calculations on amounts of different foods are available to Americans. The foods studied were fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and poultry which is just some of the categories covered by ERS database..
In 2005-06, average loss rates at the supermarket level varied from 0.6 % for sweet corn to 63.6% for mustard greens. ERS found that annual supermarket losses for 2005 and 2006 averaged 11.4 percent for fresh fruit, 9.7 percent for fresh vegetables, and 4.5 percent for fresh meat, poultry, and seafood. The new estimates indicated a decrease in food waste in supermarkets compared to the estimates used by ERS before.
Conventional grocery stores with more than $2 million sales such as Safeway, Kroger, Albertson's and AHold totalling about 63% of the total grocery-channel dollars were used to provide the data. Proprietary data matching shipment data for food into about 600 stores was matched with data of consumer purchases from six chains. Omitted are convenience stores, small independents, mass retailers/clubs such as Costco and megastores such as Walmart. for the year 2005-2006 Each food listing such as fresh carrots encompassed a number of universal product codes such as baby carrots, shredded carrots, 1, 3 and 5 pounds of whole carrots plus whole carrots sold by the pound. Loss is measured as pounds that came into the store but were not sold divided by the pounds of the product that came into the store.
Definitions had to be developed. For example, fresh apples included packaged apples and random apples as well as pre-sliced apples but did not include caramel apples or sliced apples mixed with other fruit. Fruit mixtures couldn't be allocated to the ERS data because the contractor couldn't know what fruit was in the mixture or the weight of different fruit in the mixture. As foods which weren't common before enter the marketplace questions arise as to where to put the new food e.g. whether arugula should be put with romaine and leaf lettuce. Data availability depends on how supermarkets track their purchases and sales. For example, meat, poultry and seafood such as fish and shellfish are tracked less effectively by retailers than produce so level of detail required to match purchase, sale and ERS data group is sometimes lacking. in many stores.
Losses of fresh food are increased by:
  • lower product turnover. Greater number of items and subcategories such as in the leafy greens where greater variety in packaged salads is offered means each item is competing for the consumer's attention and dollar. Sales of salads overall may rise but more individual salads may spoil even though packaged salads have a longer shelf life. Promotions of specific salad also increase turnover of those at the expense of other varieties. Consumer unfamiliarity with how to prepare the food also leads to food spoilage.
  • inherent perishability of product resulting in spoilage and wilting
  • lack of availability or poor application of technologies to reduce product deterioration such as refrigeration and produce misting.
Loss has declined over time due to several different factors, such as:
  • improved packaging (e.g., plastic clam shells)
  • improved ordering systems
  • more frequent deliveries
  • increased product handling training for in-store personnel
  • improved temperature-control tracking
  • introduction of produce varieties with improved shelf life.
Fresh Fruit
Average loss between 2005 and 2006 decreased from 10.7% to 8.4%. One possible reason is the rapid growth of fresh cut fruit. Even though this has a shorter shelf life than whole fruit and the stores created more waste with rinds, cores and peelings, the demand was high enough to reduce total loss for fresh fruit.
Blueberries had the lowest loss at 4.6% in 2006. The clear plastic container they are sold in prevents food loss and increases the shelf life. Also new varieties of blueberries have better keeping quality.
Fresh fruit with high losses in 2006 were papayas 51.0%, apricots 32.6%, honeydew melons 24%, and tangerines 21%. Losses were different in the two years e.g. loss of mangoes in 2005 was 21.2% but only 7.7%.
Consumers may not have enough knowledge about when to papaya is ripe leading to delays in deciding to buy. The variability in mangoes may mean that there may be year-to-year differences in this tropical fruit. The quality of honeydew melons and cantaloupe also varies from year to year due to different crop conditions.
Apples and bananas showed declines in loss which is attributed to post harvest technology controlling ripening. Of all fresh fruit, Americans eat more apples and bananas.
Fresh Vegetables
Total vegetable loss at the supermarket level declined from 10.3% in 2005 to 8.4% in 2006.
Corn has the lowest loss. One reason may be that corn has a limited season so consumers purchase corn when it is available.. Corn is sold in the husk which either protects it or hides damage until the consumer gets it home. Loss for tomatoes has declined due to clamshell packaging and new varieties improving shelf life.
Fresh mustard greens had the highest loss of 63.6%. This may be due to lack of consumer knowledge about this product. Consumers are more used to buying the frozen mustard greens. Other leafy greens such as endive (47%), kale (36%)and collards (32%) also had high losses. One of the causes of loss of turnip greens is that they need refrigeration after harvest to retain moisture.
Despite recall of spinach in September 2006 due to E. coli, spinach loss remained constant at 14%.. The recalled spinach wasn't counted in the loss calculations. Spinach sales were low in the month following the recall.
Fresh Meat
Veal had the highest loss averaging 25%. Retailers offer veal to show variety in the meat department; only some people buy veal regularly.
Lamb losses were also relative high at 12%. Retailers want to offer it but it is more likely than other meats not to be sold by the expiry date. If the cut they want isn't available, consumers are less likely to buy lamb. Consumers often don't know what to do with lamb so. New ways of trimming lamb and processing is producing cuts which are more likely to meet consumer demand.
Beef, pork and chicken losses are 4%. Beef losses increased slightly with some retailers saying they are providing beef prepared at packing plants instead of by in-store butcher. Some consumers are hesitant about buying case-ready meats.
With fewer meat departments doing cutting, beef products often go out of code (sell by date). With meat departments, the staff would pull less expensive cuts of meat from the counter before the cuts went out of code and ground these meats for ground beef.
The overall fresh meat, poultry and seafood loss is relatively lower than fresh fruits and vegetables but may be rising. Supermarkets carry a larger variety of flavours, cuts and convenience options such as sliced and boneless. With more unique meat products, the supermarkets have a more difficult job managing inventory and shelf space.
Turkey has the lowest loss at 2.5% due probably to the fact it is often shipped frozen and kept partially frozen increasing shelf life.
Losses for seafood decreased. It could be due to more consumers purchasing. When employees are at the seafood counter and share information about how to cook different seafoods, customers are more likely to purchase. But packaged fish has lower losses than fresh fish counters. If the seafood section offers ready to heat and serve cooked seafood, there is less loss because cooked seafood has longer shelf life than fresh.
What Happens to Supermarket Food Waste?
Future work is suggested to find out more about the nature of the food loss in supermarkets. For example, how much spoils or loses moisture, how much is tossed out, or recovered in some way e.g. sent to food banks or for animal feed.
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Ontario's greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions are doing better than meeting the target set by the Government for 2014 but Gord Miller, Environment Commissioner of Ontario ECO for the province, says that as the economy improves, emissions will rise again so the job is not done. "The Province recognises this to some degree because in their recent CCAP update report, they conclude that the province will be 4 Mt over the 166 Mt target in 2014." said Miller. Miller said their independent analysis using the most favourable grams of CO2 per dollar of GDP, arrives at 13 Mt of CO2 emissions over the target for the government's projected economic growth by 2014. This means that the 2020 targets won't be met either.
The report includes a number of recommendations many of which relate to decoupling economic growth and carbon dioxide emissions including carbon pricing. In terms of this GL issue's theme of food waste, the report strongly recommends against landfill biogas mostly because of suspect measurement of methane releases from landfills. The issue is key to managing organic waste especially whether to divert such waste to composting or to capture the methane for energy in landfill.
Although the government has stated that the best long term option is diversion from landfill, the ECO report states that the government is sending mixed messages to municipalities. Among the conflicting information is:
  • Landfills can extend over many hectares and over 20 metres down. They can leak into the atmosphere and into water through cracks and broken seams as well as trenches and pipes. These fugitive emissions escaping in many directions are difficult to measure so modelling is often done taking account various factors such as types of waste, operating methods, moisture and so on. ECO suggests that a much larger amount of methane may be leaching out of the landfills than the models indicate.
  • The lifetime gas generation potential LGGP estimates are likely too low. The assumption commonly used is that the LGGP of a tonne of organic waste is 100 cubic metres. But some studies indicate that the LGGP can be as high as 310 cubic metres / tonne of organic waste. The methane component of the total gas generated is assumed to be 50% in Ontario but the range may be 35% to 60%. How much degradable organic content is in the waste is an important part of the calculation for methane gas generation.
  • Moisture content. Methane is generated when moisture content is from 60-80%. Newly deposited waste is usually around 20% moisture content. Moisture isn't evenly spread throughout the landfill, waste is often compacted in plastic bags which is why carrots can still be identified after many years. Landfills that recirculate leachate to protect groundwater and bioreactor landfills increase the moisture. More moisture means more methane which means more fugitive emissions. And all that organic waste that doesn't decompose now, will decompose in the future, for example if the landfill cover cracks letting in rain.
The ECO report states that these uncontrolled releases of methane and other GHGs "could reduce, offset or even exceed the potential environmental gains from landfill gas capture and power generation." The true impact of landfilling organic waste is uncertain and this "calls into question the rationale for landfill energy production as an appropriate component of a climate change mitigation strategy."
A discussion of the regulations talks about the conflicting policies some of which may lead to more methane emissions. For example, the requirement to install gas capture systems may encourage municipalities to increase the amount of organic waste in the landfill to feed their energy production resulting in an increase in fugitive methane emissions greater than the GHG emission reductions from replacing fossil fuels with biogas. Landfills should be operated so that nothing decomposes and the contents remain essentially inactive. This reduces releases not only of methane but other hazardous materials. This type of operation means there wouldn't be enough methane produced for electricity generation. The government projects 2.1 Mt of GHG emissions by 2020 through landfill gas but the ECO report says this is "at best optimistic and at worst, may be completely negated due to the increase in fugitive methane releases." Organics not yet in landfills should be diverted, "Diversion will always produce greater GHG reduction benefits." Existing landfills should be managed by flaring the methane and aiming to keep the landfill as inactive as possible.
Recommended are composting, anaerobic digestion and thermal conversion such as pyrolysis. Municipalities should be implementing green bin programs for food scraps, pet wastes and soiled paper. Higher levels of organic diversion are feasible.
Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. Meeting responsibilities: Creating Opportunities. Submitted to the Legislative Assembly by Gord Miller, Environmental Commissioner of Ontario on May 31, 2011. - GHG/2011/11GHG.pdf
 and associated material at
Enterohaemorrhagic E. coli, or EHEC has shaken the confidence of consumers, medical profession and scientists. Resistant to many of the antibiotics used in Germany, EHEC causes serious illness even though the bacteria is present in relatively small quantities. Spanish vegetable growers are claiming compensation because the German government pointed the finger at Spanish cucumber resulting in loss of sales and food. Businesses are at risk when fears about a dreadful disease are shrouded in so much uncertainty.
Although bean sprouts in northern Germany were identified as the source of the outbreak, it isn't clear where the EHEC came from. It is likely to be transferred to food and then to humans or from humans to the environment and then to food.. The strain O104:H4 is probably a "recombinant of two pathogenic E. coli types" according to the German risk assessment agency (Bundesinstitut fuer Risikobewerting). First documentation of it date from 2001 and then again in 2006 when it was associated with a woman who contracted it in Korea. Many of the properties of the bacteria aren't described in the science literature.
Anaerobic digesters were one of the businesses identified as having a connection with the outbreak. Northern Germany has a large number of biogas facilities which process organic waste in the absence of oxygen (much as happens in a landfill only more controlled) to produce methane and to leave residual material often spread on land although some countries such as Switzerland don't allow such material on agricultural land.
The German Biogas Association denied any association between the EHEC outbreak in Germany and biogas facilities. Dr. Werner Philipp from Hohenheim University has suggested that the lower process temperatures (37-42 deg C) of mesophilic fermentation in anaerobic digesters which handle organic waste from sources which don't normally mix together including food waste, municipal solid waste and manure may have led to the situation where bacteria which normally wouldn't associate with each other could exchange genes to become more virulent bacteria. The biogas press release says that indications are that the processes destroy 99.9% of pathogens.
Gallon notes that while recycling of material such as food waste has beneficial effects on soil and reduces waste sent to landfill, the negative effects include the risks from bacteria, viruses, protozoa and parasites which can affect health of people, animals and plants. New regulations and policies had to be developed to stop the recycling of animal bone and carcasses because these spread BSE aka mad cow disease when animal waste products containing prions spread the disease to cattle and in turn to humans. It is not possible to test for all the possible pathogens that might present risk in the organic waste material before or after treatment such fermenting in biogas plants and subsequent heating.
The German biogas association says that after the biowaste is fermented, the solids remaining are heated to 70deg C for 1 hour in holding tanks which reduces measures of microorganisms below detection level. Gallon has no evidence of any shortcuts taken by the German biogas industry but speculates that because pasteurization takes extra energy for the heating, it wouldn't be surprising if some in the industry speed the flow of material along.
Research is still ongoing about how to test biowaste for organisms which by their presence could be used as indicators of pathogen risk. The US Water Environment Research Foundation is publishing a series of articles and organizing conferences on residual materials. As an example, one paper to be available for purchase in March 2012 indicates that E. coli may be one of the bacteria that can survive for longer and at higher temperature than previously thought.
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Hello Colin
Here is the reply from CFIA. I suggested to them that 50 k for local was out of date (since horses & buggies).
However the alternative labels for home grown food do not seem unreasonable. I'd like to see a label that differentiates between family farmers and corporations.
Jessie Davidson
National Farmers Union member
From: WebMaster CFIA <>
To: jessie davidson
Thank you for your comments.
The Food and Drug Regulations (Section B.01.012) establish that "local food" means a food that is manufactured, processed, produced or packaged in a local government unit and sold only in
a) the local government unit in which it is manufactured, processed or packaged,
b) one or more local government units that are immediately adjacent to the one in which it is manufactured, processed, produced or packaged, or
c) the local government unit in which it is manufactured, processed, produced or packaged and in one or more local government units that are immediately adjacent to the one in which it is manufactured, processed, produced or packaged
The 50 km guidance is used to be less restrictive in areas where there may be several municipalities in the close proximity.
Other terms such as "Product of Nova Scotia", "Foodland Ontario", " Buy BC ", or "Quebec Vrai," etc. may be used to describe fresh produce which is produced and grown within a province but which does not meet the criteria for "local".
The local food section of the Food and Drug Regulations were last updated in 2000 by Health Canada who is responsible for setting the standards under the FDR. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency enforces those standards.
Thank you for using the CFIA web site.
News that Geoff Rathbone, General Manager of Toronto's Solid Waste Management Services was leaving as of May 27, 2011 created quite a challenge for Mayor Rob Ford's privatization plan for garbage. Rathbone left to become Vice-President Progressive Waste Solutions, formerly called BFI Canada, part of one of the largest waste management companies in Canada. Progressive Waste Solutions has corporate offices in Vaughan with American HQ in Fort Worth, Texas.
Before he left, he wrote a report recommending privatization of Toronto garbage collection. Although Rathbone said he took steps to deal with the conflict of interest, some councillors are very concerned about the perception of conflict of interest associated with the contract.
On April 14, 2011 a report to the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee from Rathbone and Lou Pagano Director of Purchasing and Materials recommended in addition to three other garbage activity outsourcing that a request for quotations be issued to privatize garbage collection in District 2, an area west of Yonge St to the Etobicoke border. The contracting out would replace 300 in-house employees. About 165,000 homes are in the area. The approved budget is $27.721 million per year. Savings are expected to be 15-20% labour cost savings, $3 million which doesn't have to be added to the equipment reserve for equipment and vehicles, lease revenue for a facility and a one time $1.5 million in one time sale of assets. District 1, the former City of Etobicoke was already private. The report states that cost per tonne of household waste is $103.14 in District 1 compared to $149.68 in District 2. On April 26, the Committee adopted the recommendations without amendment including processes for bid approval out of the public eye.
Gallon notes that while it might look like the cost difference is due to contracting out in District 1, another in-house District 4 had a cost per tonne of $113.27 much closer to the outsourced costs. Perhaps other factors which could be considered to reduce in-house costs enter into the equation.
Rathbone said he took steps to distance himself from the potential for conflict of interest but the short time scale between his recommendations and his leaving to join a company with bidding interest caused concern. Instead of accepting the fast track recommended by the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, on May 17, 2011, City Council adopted Agenda Item 2011.PW3.1 with amendments. Among the amendments is a prohibition of companies affiliated with Progressive Waste Solutions or BFI Canada from bidding on this potential contract and requiring bidders to meet the minimum cost savings "that the City claims.".
Union Cautiously Optimistic
The Toronto Civic Employees Union TCEU CUPE Local 416 issued a press release expressing some optimism that the garbage collection might not be outsourced after all due to the amendments made at City Council. President Mark Ferguson said, "We have worked very hard to bring to the attention of council and the taxpayers of this city, that the figures the city has publicly released are not complete, that their comparators were incorrect and that the responsibility for such a large contract should rest with council. We are dealing with a $1/4 billion contract and all the facts must be in the public record." CUPE is running ads which say that Toronto's waste collection costs are 30% lower than average including municipalities using private collection and greener: "Public garbage workers have made Toronto a leader in Canada for waste reduction and recycling, keeping over 60% of our waste out of landfills. Private companies have other ‘green’ priorities – making money for themselves."
Gallon is generally reasonably happy to see the private sector provide services as long as the contract requires both environmental and labour standards which are enforced. We agree with Mark Ferguson of the Toronto Civic Employee Union TCEU that garbage collection is dangerous and dirty work and that there should be protection of workers for decent working conditions and for decent wages. We have lived in two areas with private garbage collection. In one place, the pace and expectations seemed at least from a distance to be reasonable. In another area, the company's practices put workers at risk: the speed that they were expected to lift heavy garbage containers and the fact that they seemed to be expected to run behind the truck all day clearly set a stage for injury. We watched often enough to realize that the cheapness of the contract was due almost entirely to poorly designed trucks and practices and an attitude that workers were disposable.
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Andrew Benedek who founded his own company ZENON Environmental Inc. in the 1980s has added another prize to his life achievement which already includes Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize and the Swedish Industrial Water Prize. The University of Washington College of Engineering awarded him the Diamond Award of Entrepreneurial Excellence. The Diamond Awards recognize significant contributions to the field of engineering. ZENON's ZeeWeed membrane is used in over 400 wastewater and drinking water treatment plants around the world. In 2006, GE Water & Process Technologies paid about CDN$760 million for shares of ZENON. Benedek is Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, UTS Biogastechnik GmbH based in Bavaria in Germany.
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On June 9, Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy CIELAP and the Canadian Environmental Law Association CELA joined up again in a "Homecoming 2011" celebration. CIELAP and CELA began as one organization in 1970. Grant Caven, chair of the CIELAP's Board of Directors described the reason for the homecoming, "
Given a number of current realities including a changed funding landscape, a plethora of new and vibrant organizations and initiatives on the scene, as well as the overlap between the mandates of CIELAP and CELA, CIELAP’s Board has decided that it does not make sense to continue as a separate organization." CELA will continue making the publications available and the Centre for Environment at the University of Toronto is archiving research papers and duplicate publications.
Anne Mitchell was head of CIELAP from 1992 to 2009. For Gallon's editor, she was the face of CIELAP, the person he talked to many times over the years. She left to take up a position with the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).
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BPA is one of the best known endocrine disruptors, chemicals which mimic human hormones and are believed to cause problems for human reproduction. A team of scientists led by Jessica M McCormick of Rutgers University has just published a paper indicating that microbes can convert bisphenol A, the material that Canada has banned from baby food contact applications, into substances that are more toxic to fish than the BPA itself.
Maybe Canada and other nations should put more effort and resources into studying the environmental aspects of endocrine disruptors. Keeping our babies safe is important but human babies cannot live on a sterile planet. Fish are important too!
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