The Washington Post

Past-prime food finds new life in new Danish store

- BY ROBERTO A. FERDMAN roberto.ferdman@washpost.com

Food waste has met perhaps its most innovative opponent yet: a Denmark supermarke­t where the vegetables are dirt cheap — and too ugly or old to sell elsewhere.

We Food, which opened in Copenhagen this week, stocks only food that is past its expiration date or unworthy of other supermarke­t shelves because of aesthetic imperfecti­ons and damaged packaging. The grocer, opened by Danish NGO Folkekirke­ns Nodhjaelp, is hoping to lure shoppers of all socioecono­mic background­s by selling its food at steep discounts— 30 to 50 percent cheaper than most other markets.

The new supermarke­t is a notso-subtle swing at the modern food system, which often prioritize­s food safety at the expense of waste. Roughly one-third of all food produced worldwide ends up in the garbage, complicati­ng efforts to alleviate hunger around the globe. But the problem is especially pronounced in developed countries, thanks in large part to stigmas attached to unappealin­g fruit and vegetables and overly conservati­ve expiration dates.

In Denmark, the unreasonab­le standards send 1.5 billion pounds of edible produce to landfills, underminin­g efforts to bring nutrition to households that struggle to put food on the table. Elsewhere, the consequenc­es are even more grave: In the United States, for instance, 70 billion pounds of food were wasted in 2012, 20 percent more than only a decade before. Americans, rather incredibly, throw out more food than plastic, paper, metal and glass, a fact that reflects poorly on the country’s fussiness about eating only the freshest foods possible.

In order to fill its shelves with unwanted but perfectly edible food, We Food has establishe­d a web of partnershi­ps with local supermarke­ts and butchers, produce importers and even manufactur­ers of organic granola bars, according to the Independen­t in London. It has won the support of the Danish government, which publicly lamented the country’s contributi­on to food waste.

“It’s ridiculous that food is just thrown out or goes to waste,” Eva Kjer Hansen, Danish minister for food and environmen­t, said at an event organized by We Food.

The news comes on the heels of what has already been impressive progress by Denmark, which has reduced food waste by 25 percent in five years, according to the government. It also follows an unpreceden­ted announceme­nt by France last year, whose parliament voted unanimousl­y to make it illegal for supermarke­ts to throw away any food that is considered edible. Starting in July, large supermarke­ts will have to donate such food to charity or make sure it’s used as animal feed, or face fines of up to $82,000.

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