NEW research has revealed that every year Australian households are disposing of $5 billion worth of food - and the number one category of food being discarded is fruit and vegetables, valued at $1.1 billion.
“Throwing out over a billion dollars’ worth of produce every year is an alarming revelation,” said AUSVEG senior communications officer Courtney Burger.
"We encourage Australians to actively incorporate more vegetables into their diets and take advantage of the affordability of the fresh produce in this country."
AUSVEG is the national peak industry body for Australia’s 9000 vegetable and potato growers.
The research has been published in the report Australia’s food and nutrition 2012, recently released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
On average each Australian household throws out $616 of fruit and vegetables every year, with higher income earners being the worst offenders averaging $803 per year, compared to lower income houses binning $518 annually.
“An excellent way to combat this wastage is to try new recipes that incorporate a lot of vegetables and try being innovative - such as not discarding slightly older vegetables but adding them together to make a healthy soup.
"Plan your meals around what’s already in your fridge,” said Miss Burger.
“Change not only needs to happen for consumers binning food at home, but there is also food wastage within the supply chain as a result of retailers not accepting produce because it does not meet cosmetic criteria,” she said.
An example of this avoidable waste is the banana industry with an estimated 10-30 per cent of produce being discarded before it is put on the market. The majority of this waste is caused by retailers’ rejection of the fruit that does not meet specifications.
“Australian vegetable growers try to combat excessive waste through food donation programs such as the Melbourne Markets donating 568 tonnes of produce annually to the Food Bank; a not-for-profit organisation which supplies food to over 600 community organisations throughout Victoria,” said Miss Burger.
“As consumers we also need to change our attitudes towards fresh fruit and vegetables, because if we accepted produce that was slightly imperfect ... we could combat this excessive waste.”
“This is a global issue with the majority of discarded food being highly perishable items such as takeaway food, meat, fish, dairy and bakery foods.
"There is a considerable opportunity to increase our consumption of fruit and vegetables - which will only assist in combating serious health threats in the community such as diabetes and obesity,” said Miss Burger.