Leftover food sharing in Germany leaves a bad taste in my mouth

My role as dad and food dude has morphed in the past year –  I now do most of our food shopping and cooking. Two or three days a week I make meals with the plan that they will also be used for a couple of lunches. I get that this isn’t revolutionary (note the large market for Tupperware) but is new for me.2008_12_4-Leftovers2

There is apparently a subgroup of leftover-avoiding folks out there who are also concerned with food waste, leading to the development of a leftover sharing ap in the U.S. LeftoverSwap and now it’s German counterpart foodsharing.de.

According to NPR, child psychiatrist Vero Buschmann was looking for a way to get rid of leftovers without having to throw them away. And she was looking to create a community around similar food waste values.

She found a nonprofit website in Germany that allows her to do both. On a recent evening, her doorbell rings and she buzzes Franzi Zimmerman in to her fifth-floor apartment.

“I have a whole bunch of baked goods I just picked up from the baker,” Buschmann tells her 29-year-old guest. “You can take as much as you want!” She also offers some soup and chutney, made from her leftover produce.

Zimmerman laughs and replies: “Wow, that’s really great. Homemade soup? It doesn’t get better than that!”

Such exchanges between strangers are happening in more than 240 cities across Germany through Foodsharing.de (for English, click on the tiny British flag on the top left), a website that connects people who have free food to give away with people seeking those items.

Some 40 tons of food have been given away via the network since it began online 18 months ago. More than 41,000 people have signed up. The nonprofit website’s creators say their goal is to prevent large amounts of produce, bread and other perishable food from being thrown away.

Food waste is not just a German problem, says website co-founder Valentin Thurin. He’s a Cologne-based filmmaker whose documentary, Taste the Waste, lays out in jolting terms just how much food Europeans throw away each year – 90 million tons worth, to be exact. It’s a phenomenon that costs the European economy more than $130 billion every year — up to half of fruits and vegetables picked at harvest time, he says.

“With food, obviously there is a health risk associated, so we needed to establish some rules,” Thurin says. He says the Web team worked with lawyers to ensure the network didn’t violate any German or European regulations governing food.

As a result, it doesn’t offer meats or other products that have “sell by” dates, concentrating instead on food items with “best before” labels.

There are no inspectors checking on food offered through the network, but consumers are encouraged to go online and rate the food they’ve received, Thurin says.

After a quick review of the food safety guidance at foodsharing.de  there might be some stuff that is lost in translation. There is a listing of types of high risk foods (or extra delicate foods) and suggestions on transportation, refrigeration and cleaning and sanitation. The lack of safe endpoint temperatures and proper cooling guidance is a glaring omission.


Leftovers ap links people who want to share extra food

Leftovers didn’t used to be my thing. I used to loathe the idea of eating the same meal the next day (unless it was Thanksgiving turkey). With age my lifestyle and tastes have changed. I get up early, run a couple of times a week and have embraced the world of reheating food from the night before.Cold Pizza

I do a lot of the weekend cooking at our house and make meals that turn into at least another dinner and usually a couple of lunches. I get that this isn’t revolutionary (note the large market for Tupperware) but is new for me.

There is apparently a subgroup of leftover-avoiding folks out there who are also concerned with food waste, leading to  the development of a leftover sharing ap. According to KCRG, developer Dan Newman created LeftoverSwap as a way for folks to share extra meatloaf or chicken casserole with others in their location.

“We only eat 60 percent of the food we produce, and that is pretty much a global stat,” said Dan Newman.

He and some friends came up with the solution a few years ago, after ordering too much pizza.

“So all this pizza was going to go to waste. And we thought, how cool of an idea would it be to find a place or find someone in the area who would be interested in eating this pizza?”

That idea grew into a smartphone app called “leftoverswap.”

It’s easy to use: just take a picture of the food you don’t want to go to waste, and then post it through the app. It then drops a pin on your location with a picture and description of the meal, no exchange of money involved. Newman says it also works for unopened and canned foods, but food experts say the app raises safety concerns.

“So you don’t know if it was refrigerated when the person got home, or if they left it on the counter, you also don’t know if they sneezed or coughed into the food, had any saliva in the food when they were eating it. Also, there’s a food defense concern, so you don’t know if they inserted anything in it that could be harmful to you,” said Rachel Wall, a food nutrition specialist with ISU Extension (temperature abuse after sneezing would be a problem. Coughing is pretty low risk, but gross. Saliva would matter if the person was ill- ben).

Newman admits there is the possibility that traded leftovers could make you sick.
But, like with Craigslist, he hopes people will use common sense.

“Don’t give away anything you wouldn’t eat yourself. And if you do take food, make sure you prepare it properly,” Newman said.

What does prepare it properly mean? I’d want to know whether the members have the tools and info necessary to make food safely – and whether they actually did it.

Store Thanksgiving leftovers safely and quickly

Liz Szabo writes in tomorrow’s USA Today that a Thanksgiving cook’s work doesn’t end when mealtime begins.

Douglas Powell, associate professor of food safety at Kansas State University says people need to slice and refrigerate leftover meat within no more than two hours of taking the turkey out of the oven, adding,

"As soon as dinner is done, you better go deal with that turkey.”

Lynne Ausman, a professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science at Tufts University in Boston, agrees.

"The worst thing you can do is let everyone sit at the table with the turkey there," Ausman says.

To get leftovers cold quickly, cooks should slice meat off the carcass, wrap it in individual plastic bags and refrigerate as soon as possible, Powell says. And be careful not to stack bags on top of each other, because that can trap heat.

"You need to expose more of the surface area so it cools faster," Powell says. "Otherwise, the cool fridge air won’t get to the warm areas of the turkey."

Powell also recommends refrigerating rice — another bacterial hot spot — as soon as possible.

Certain bacteria can proliferate in food at room temperature, producing a toxin that can’t be killed by reheating in the oven or microwave, Ausman says.

For example, a church turkey dinner Nov. 6 in Arkansas City, Kan., sickened at least 159 of the 1,800 people who attended, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Victims suffered diarrhea, abdominal pain, cramping and vomiting. One was hospitalized.