Brexit concentrates Theresa May’s mind about food waste – Stephen Jardine

Theresa May runs through fields of wheat and also scrapes mould off jam (Picture: Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Theresa May runs through fields of wheat and also scrapes mould off jam (Picture: Leon Neal/Getty Images)
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Theresa May’s food waste advice – about scraping off mould from jam – may be more important after Brexit, writes Stephen Jardine.

As confessions go, it wasn’t that impressive. While some famous people admit to drug-fuelled orgies or drink-soaked violence, Theresa May this week revealed she has been known to scrape the mould off the top of a jar of jam, as long as no one is looking.

In the league table of misdemeanours, it probably sits alongside running through a field of wheat or licking the mixing bowl but it did have a serious intent. The Prime Minister was discussing ways of reducing food waste and pointed out a thin layer of mould on the top of the jam should not consign the jar to the bin. That might be what the rest of us would do but as her commitment to a Brexit deal few want proves, she is nothing if not tenacious.

Our upcoming exit from the European Union and concerns about resulting food shortages have helped put food waste back on the menu. Every year around £200 million worth of food is wasted in Scotland’s hospitality sector. Around 34 per cent of this is estimated to be perfectly good food left over at the end of the meal.

READ MORE: Scotland’s national chef Gary Maclean gives top tips for reducing food waste

This week Zero Waste Scotland renewed its campaign urging more restaurant customers to take leftovers home. Research shows nearly half of diners in Scotland are currently too shy to ask for a doggy bag. That may be down to not wanting to appear mean or not fancying walking about town afterwards with a tinfoil handbag smelling of smoked haddock.

Zero Waste Scotland want to change that dynamic and make it cool to ask for leftover restaurant food to go. Why wouldn’t it be? The only judgement about someone asking for a doggy bag should be that they are environmentally aware and not stupid enough to throw away good food they have paid for.

Of course restaurants can help make this easier by asking customers if they would like to take food home when plates are cleared. They can also then present it in smart, attractive packaging instead of the tinfoil dishes most familiar from dodgy backstreet takeaways. Away from restaurants, our food waste in the home is also staggering with campaign groups estimating up to 10 million tonnes of food is binned in the UK every year. Most of this is household waste and it’s estimated about 60 per cent of that could be avoided.

READ MORE: Brexit: To expats in EU< the UK sounds like it’s preparing for war – Alastair Stewart

Initiatives like Locavore are offering a different way of doing things. The Glasgow-based social enterprise provides a wide range of loose goods allowing customers to just buy what they need and no more.

So no mouldy bags of salad or lentils way past their sell-by date. While consumers can try to cut their waste, it is the food industry that must take most of the blame for profligacy with multipack promotions and heavily packaged ready meals leading the way.

Back in the world of political preserves, it’s time for a contribution from the leader of the opposition. Jeremy Corbyn is an enthusiastic producer of homemade jam with raspberry top of his list. A Labour spokesman said it is so delicious, it doesn’t survive long enough to develop any mould. Unless our politicians get their act together soon, making homemade jam and scraping mould off food could soon be essential skills to eat well post Brexit.