Food with ‘use by dates’ on them, fruit and vegetables that are less than perfectly formed and spotted are among some of the reasons mountains of food products are tossed out every day.

The old adage better to be safe than sorry, can be a misnomer. Thanks to the likes of OzHarvest and other food rescue services we are being educated to think before we chuck. Each year households, retailers, restaurants and businesses throw out millions of tonnes of food which then finds its way into landfill sites. Although some of it may not always be fit for sale, much is of good quality and could easily be rescued and turned into nutritious, healthy meals for the needy or vulnerable in society.

The idea of expiration dates sprouted from a concern for food’s freshness, not necessarily its safety, so the majority of food dates have to do with how fresh they will be by a certain time, not necessarily how spoiled they’ll be.

The truth, however, is out there and it’s time for common sense to kick in and our sense of smell, taste, and sight to determine a food’s safety. We didn’t always have ‘use by dates’ and ‘sell by dates’ stamped onto everything we ate. If we weren’t sure about the milk or yoghurt, we smelt it. If the banana had a few brown spots on its skin, we peeled it to find the fruit inside often blemish free, and even when apples are not so robustly rosy, they can still be used to make an apple pie or apple sauce.

Canned foods and shelf-stable goods like salad dressings and vegemite can be consumed for years beyond their expiration dates, and while their quality might suffer — for example, emulsified dressings may split — they will not pose a safety hazard unless contaminated.

It’s thanks to food rescue organisations like OzHarvest who collect surplus food from food processors, suppliers, restaurants, banquet halls, caterers, grocery chains and conference centres that is changing the way we deal with food waste.

Adelaide Convention Centre’s belief that corporate social responsibility is central to modern business, purchase 98 per cent of their produce from local suppliers and enjoy long-standing partnerships with OzHarvest, Foodbank and VarietySA. They have, since the beginning of their relationship with OzHarvestSA been able to donate unused or excess food items from their kitchens.Since the beginning of their partnership, the centre contributed 22,196kg of good food, equal to 66,588 meals. This rescue also helped the environment by saving 35,514kg CO2-eq greenhouse gases and 3,174,028 litres of water.

Similarly, the National Convention Centre, the first food donor to support OzHarvest when the Canberra operation began in 2008, has seen thousands of kilograms of superb food donated and transported to more than 50 charities in the ACT and Queanbeyan.

Back in March the 5th OzHarvest CEO CookOff took place in Sydney’s The Cutaway at Barangaroo Reserve, while on the same evening Brisbane’s business elite participated in the inaugural Brisbane event at the Royal International Convention Centre.

Aimed at increasing awareness of food security, homelessness and food wastage in Australia, it involved 50 of Australia’s top chefs with a combined 42 Chef’s Hats, who teamed up with 150 business leaders to cook for more than 1300 homeless and vulnerable Australians In the end, remember, think and smell before you throw and invite OzHarvest or a food rescue organisation to speak at a team meeting or at your conference so the message can be shared and awareness raised. Knowledge is power, ignorance is an appalling waste.

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