Stop commercialisation of religious practices to curb food wastage - consumer groups

25 Mar 2023 10:57pm
Photo for illustrative purposes only. Photo: 123RF
Photo for illustrative purposes only. Photo: 123RF

SHAH ALAM - The commercialisation of Ramadan or any religious practices should stop to curb food wastage, say consumer groups.

Consumer Association of Subang and Shah Alam (Cassa) president Datuk Seri Dr Jacob George said the cycle of wasting food needs to end by putting a stop to the commercialisation of religious practices such as fasting and Hari Raya Aidilfitri gatherings.

"The scenario in this country is that even before Ramadan starts, we can already see the commercialisation of the month through all these huge spending patterns by hotels and restaurant buffets," he said.

"We can see people spending a lot of money to organise Ramadan feasts so the wastage of food at many top hotels is shocking," he told Sinar Daily.

Dr Jacob stated that the government can control the advertisements that come out during the month which pushes for spending a lot of money for food.

He also urged every society member to do their part in making sure that food is not wasted not only during Ramadan, but on other festive seasons like Christmas, Deepavali, and Chinese New Year as well.

"The government, the media and religious leaders need to come together to conscientise and advise people," he said.

He highlighted that the whole idea of Ramadan was to realise the blessings God has given and to pay gratitude for them through fasting, alms giving and many more.

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"We forget what the holy month of Ramadan is all about. It's about not wasting and giving thanks to God for all His blessings," he said.

"Ultimately, it comes back to the believers and if we believe that the month is for us to reconnect with God, I think our values and ethics will realign. We eat to live, not live to eat," he stressed.

Forum Air Malaysia president Saral James Maniam said there are ways to curb food wastage and overconsumption as a result of abundance of food during Ramadan.

"One of the ways is to plan meals carefully to avoid overbuying and overcooking, as well as to consider donating any excess food to organisations like mosques and community centres to be distributed to those in need," she said.

She added that leftovers can be stored immediately in the fridge or freezer after meal to prevent spoilage and they can be used to create new dishes the next day or incorporated into other meals.

Saral also elaborated on ways to create awareness on this issue which is to start by highlighting the negative impact of food wastage on the environment and the economy.

"Emphasise that reducing food wastage is not only a moral obligation, but it is also a way to help those in need," she told Sinar Daily.

Additionally, she said that meal planning and use of leftovers should be encouraged and promoted.

She added that people should collaborate with local organisations to donate excess food to those in need.

"This can include soup kitchens, food banks, or homeless shelters. These food banks work with local restaurants, caterers, and hotels to collect surplus food and distribute it to charitable organisations," she said.

She highlighted the importance of social media where people can spread awareness about food wastage during Ramadan by sharing tips and strategies to reduce food wastage and encouraging people to join the movement.

According to Solid Waste Management and Public Cleansing Corporation (SWCorp), around 17,000 tons of food waste is produced throughout the country daily in 2021.

A total of 24 per cent, equivalent to 4,050 tons, is food waste which can be avoided. These can be reused to give to three million people three meals daily.

Its research showed that there is a significant increase in food waste of between 15 and 20 per cent during festive periods, including Ramadan and Hari Raya Aidilfitri.