even imagine what a hungry person feels. We can show a way to
eat moderately by not wasting food because one’s junk food can
be another’s life line.
Food waste is a major problem in much of the world. While mil-
lions of people go hungry millions of ton of food are wasted at
all levels of the food chain. Farmers, manufacturers, retailers,
restaurants and consumers are all complicit in this problem.
The growing lines at food banks in the developed world, a result
of the continuing economic crisis, have now turned the media
attention on what can be truly termed a crisis.
In Canada an estimated 40 percent of the food, valued at $27
billion by the Value Chain Management Centre, finds its way
into landfill and composting every year. In the US roughly 30 to
50 per cent of food produced for consumption ends up in land-
fills each year. The estimated cost of such waste is pegged at
more than $1 billion. Similarly, in the European Union countries
around 50% of edible and healthy food is wasted each year. The
European parliament recently adopted a resolution calling for
urgent measures to halve food waste by 2025 and to improve
access to food for needy EU citizens.
In an age of increasing poverty such waste is absolutely intol-
erable and urgent measures should be taken to address it all
levels of the food chain. Islam forbids all forms of waste and
explicitly states that food waste is an impious act. In the Islamic
worldview, food is considered to be a great and highly valued
blessing. Therefore we find numerous teachings of the Prophet
Muhammad (PBUH) warning against any kind of food wastage.
There are explicit instructions related to the value of food for
the individual, traders, businesses and the state. The most prev-
alent narrations of the Prophet (PBUH) begin at the individual
level. This is logical as every major initiative begins with the
individual before it permeates through the society.
In one authentic narration, the Prophet (PBUH) is reported to
have said, “When you eat, do not wipe your hands till you have
licked them…” (Bukhari & Muslim). The message in this narra-
tion is that once one has eaten all the food that one has taken in
their plate, they should even utilise the grains or gravy that are
left on one’s hand after the completion of the meal.
In another narration in the Sahih Muslim collection the Prophet
(PBUH) is reported as saying that if a morsel falls off one’s
hand he should pick it up, clean it, and eat it. Just because the
food has fallen off one’s hand or plate doesn’t mean it should
be wasted. Islamic jurists have interpreted this narration to
mean that if the morsel falls in a clean place then it is clean
and should be eaten. If it falls in an unclean place then it (the
morsel) also becomes unclean and should instead be fed to the
animals. In either case it should be utilised and not wasted. In
another narration the Prophet (PBUH) is reported as saying one
eats everything that he or she has put on the plate as one never
knows which part of the food has barakah (blessing). (Muslim)
In the light of these teachings it is imperative on Muslims to be
conscious of the value of food and treat it with the respect that it
deserves. Just because we have access to abundant food doesn’t
mean we have a license to indulge in waste. We never know
when we will be denied this blessing. This is exactly what we
should teach our young generation. Even in different events like
wedding ceremonies, people waste a lot of food. This is a com-
mon practise in the Indo-Pak region where affluent people may
be wasting food while someone close by must go to sleep with-
out anything to eat. This really hurts big time. We hope the time
will come when one person will really care about the other.
Some Muslim communities and organizations are already taking
action to tackle food waste. Chicago's Sabeel Food Pantry (www.
sabeelfoodpantry.org), an IFANCA initiative, collects healthy,
safe, and edible food from Panera Bread, J & M Food Products,
and other businesses, which would have otherwise been wasted
and distributes it among the needy. This service reaches nearly
1600 people each year and is only increasing. More such initia-
tives need to be taken to tackle waste and hunger at all levels of
the food chain.
In Canada
an estimated 40 percent
of the food, valued at $27 billion
by the Value Chain Management
Centre, finds its way into landfill
and composting every year. In the
US roughly 30 to 50 per cent of food
produced for consumption ends
up in landfills each year.
Summer 2013
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