Monday, 21 July 2008

Freeganism - Free Food from Supermarkets

Reduced fresh produce bought from Tesco last Friday - still fresh today

The Telegraph reports the rise of Freeganism (you can watch a video of Freegans in action by clicking on this link). Apparently Freegans are people who don't pay for food, instead they scavenge from supermarket skips eating food thrown away because its reached the 'sell by' date.

'Sell by' dates are listed on fresh food for good reason. The food we buy has to be safe to eat. When we buy fish, poultry, milk and eggs we have to trust supermarkets have got the 'sell by' and 'use by' dates right. Otherwise serious food poisoning could result from digesting harmful bacteria - especially for vulnerable consumers (children and the elderly) who have lower immunity thresholds. Supermarkets don't want to kill their customers. Tragically there have been some fatal mistakes.

I wouldn't eat poultry or fish from a skip, or come to that pretty much anything else. However recently I have become a convert to my local Tesco's 'Reduced' section - especially the fresh produce. Last Friday I bought 3 Honeydew melons reduced from 86p to 24p. They'd reached their 'sell by' date. I ate one on Saturday - honestly it was a bit under-ripe, so I've left the other 2 to ripen. I also bought 250g of Finest brand Tulameen raspberries. These were reduced from £2.49 to just 75p (250g of 'regular' raspberries were available for £1.49). The raspberries were marked 'display until' 18th July 'best before' 19th July - Saturday. Today, Monday, they are in good shape. Of course I'm profiting from Tesco's strict stock control. Farmers may not be.

I've been reading a couple of new books about the food industry 'Eat Your Heart Out' by Felicity Lawrence, who also authored 'Not On The Label' and Raj Patel's 'Stuffed and Starved'. I've been guilty of turning a blind eye to all the horror stories about food processing and the relationship between agriculture and supermarkets. My eyes have been opened. Now I know how little supermarkets pay farmers, I understand how they can afford to operate such generous discounting when the sell by date arrives...and even feed the Freegans scavenging in the skips at the back of the loading bay.

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