In these early hours of April 1st, I have been looking for April Fool stories. The Daily Mail is no use, any of their stories would qualify on any day of the year. I suspect many of their day-to-day stories are just made up anyway.
Over, then, to the sites with no sense of humour. There is a story about using crushed date kernels to make fake coffee. Could that be a hoax? Well, there was once Camp coffee, made from chicory. It looked like a bottle of brown sauce and tasted almost entirely of other things than coffee. Maybe that stuff is still around somewhere. I didn’t like it so have never looked for it. The name has probably been long since Stonewalled as offensive. Now it might be called ‘Whoopsie’ or ‘Get her!’ fake shite coffee.
There are things that make it suspicious as a potential April Fool. Halfway through it becomes a coffee and tea alternative. It pushes the idea that crushed kernels are actually healthy (although every time industry wants you to eat their waste, they say it’s healthy) and that this new wonder dust could have uses in ‘cosmetic and personal care’ products. And the company gets their raw material for free.
Even that part isn’t so unlikely. Companies have to pay a lot of money to have waste taken away to landfill. Someone offering to take it off their hands for nothing would get a warm welcome. I know of someone (commercial connection, could be work in it for me in the future so buttoned lip on details here) who is selling anaerobic digesters to food companies. They cost a lot but they produce methane which provides some power. More than that though, they hugely reduce the solids content of food waste and therefore hugely reduce the cost of getting rid of it.
And there is a lot of food waste. Lots of perfectly good food gets chucked out every day. Even in a little business like Local Shop. Out of date food is usually absolutely safe. They build a good safety margin into those shelf lives. Yet, if you even give away date-expired food and the homeless guy who eats it gets sick, you’ll be sued until you’re homeless too. Even if it can’t be conclusively proved the food was responsible for his illness. That doesn’t matter. What you have to prove is ‘due diligence’ and selling, or even giving away, expired food does not match the definition of due diligence.
So the homeless guy eats the date-expired but perfectly safe Victoria sponge cake you gave him, then licks a spilled curry off the pavement, then gets a bad dose of shitting-out-of-every-orifice and blames you. You can insist the cake was safe until the cows come home, redecorate, jet off to Marbella for two weeks, come home again, draw their pensions, die of a long and debilitating illness and then get cremated in Burger King but it won’t help.
You gave him out of date food. The pavement curry was not out of date. You lose. Mostly because nobody knows who bought or sold the curry and in any legal battle, someone has to pay the lawyers. Homeless guy is skint so you’re it. That’s how the law works. It’s a great thing, the law, if you can afford it.
Therefore masses of perfectly good food – including bakery products baked fresh that very day – get sent to waste rather than risk their ending up in the hands of the Compo Crew. I can see the sense where doughnuts are concerned. Supermarket ones last for days but taste awful. Proper ones, cooked that day, are wonderful but will be rocks in the morning. And yet the bread should be okay tomorrow (except soda bread) and the granola squares that look horrible and the shortbread and… well most of it apart from the doughnuts.
You could label it ‘yesterday’s bread’ and sell it cut price. It will last one day less than today’s bread. Really though, that is commercial madness because if you did it, nobody would buy today’s bread. The balance point would be between the cost of throwing out fresh baked bread against the possibility of just calling the shop ‘Yesterday’s Bread’ and accepting lower profit margins and less waste. It costs to pay the baker, to power the bakery, to throw away the waste so that balance point isn’t as far away as it seems.
Ah, if only Captain Beefheart were around. ‘Yesterday’s Bread’ would be a discordant cacophony of delight within a day. Krafwerk couldn’t use it. Maybe Focus could. If they are still alive. Well, I am at that age where everyone I have ever met is dead or mad or on medication or ‘stressed’, whatever that is. Whatever is affecting them does not seem to affect me at all. Just lucky, I suppose.
All this whining about food waste and how many millions of tons are binned each year is not really about the people it’s blamed on – us. It’s about the legal system that forces shops and supermarkets to chuck out perfectly good food by the truckload or face the Compo Claimant Collective.
Now here is the clever part. If you produce a food, it has an expiry date. If you take the waste product of that food production and produce another food, it has another expiry date. A date that stems from the point you produced the finished product.
So, you buy or take the waste from one place and turn it into Soylent Green and the drones will never question it. Never ask how or why their lives are sustained.
Producer A makes a product that will be definitely safe three weeks after shipping. Producer B’s product lasts three weeks also – but once a week he picks up the the leftovers from Producer A’s system and then, three weeks later, his date-limit begins. So what does the date limit mean? Aside from being another control measure and another way for the Wastemonsters (or, if you are in the US, the Waste House) to make money, it means pretty much nothing. Do what my grandmothers did. If it smells okay, eat it. If it smells a bit off, oven-blast it until it smells okay.
But I have digressed. The point is, is it likely that anyone would think it a good idea to sell waste as food, and would anyone buy it? In only a part of my lifetime, the answer has gone from ‘no’ through ‘maybe’ to ‘definitely’.
Feeding the drones on what amounts to industrial swill does not seem at all unlikely these days. Ten years ago I would have called ‘hoax’ at once but now it’s impossible to be sure.
Maybe this is not an April Fool after all. They get harder to spot every year.
In the Mail, the hoaxes are harder to spot every day.