“Let the German tell you: Why you should eat your expired yogurt”

Grocery shopping is a topic you can not avoid no matter living in which country. Surprisingly, in Germany, they do take “food” pretty seriously. Speisequark, which is quite common in Europe (and almost nowhere to find in East Asia), shows me a strange symbol with “Kostbares Retten” written on it. After a quick research, I found out it says something like ”rescue the precious”. It aims to reduce food waste(“Halving food waste”, 2020).


去超市,是一个在哪个国家都避不开的生活日常。未曾想到的是,在德国,吃,这一件事,却又有很多讲究和门道。Speisequark是一种欧洲很常见的乳渣制品,类似于国内相对浓稠的酸奶。我偶然间在标签上发现了“Kostbares Retten” 的标志。经查阅之后发现,这是一个拯救食物浪费的运动(“Halving food waste”, 2020) 。虽然“食品安全”是难以避免的话题,德国人倡导: 闻一闻,尝一下,开始享受,哪怕在最佳日期到期之后(Riechen. Probieren. Genießen. Auch häufig nach Ablauf des Mindesthaltbarkeitsdatums)。他们认为,哪怕在保质期过后,牛奶,奶酪,酸奶等制品通常也很好。然而,大多数的消费者却会选择将其抛弃(www.dw.com), 2020)。

Although food safety can be a big issue, the Germans still choose to promote – Smell. Try. Enjoy, also often after the best-before date has expired.(Riechen. Probieren. Genießen. Auch häufig nach Ablauf des Mindesthaltbarkeitsdatums)Even after the best-before date, the dairies like milk, yogurt and cheese can still be good to eat. However, most of the customers usually just throw them away(www.dw.com), 2020).

在一次采访中,德国食品贸易组织的发言人说到:”The importance of the best-before date is overestimated this way because most of the foods that are thrown away have no best before date at all.” (最佳有效期的重要性被远远高估了,因为很多被扔掉的食物其实并没有什么最佳有效期)(www.dw.com), 2020)

In an interview, Christian Böttcher of the Federal Association of the German Food Trade told DW, “The importance of the best-before date is overestimated this way because most of the foods that are thrown away have no best before date at all.(www.dw.com), 2020)”


Therefore, the Germans believe that customers should trust their feelings. If it has not turned bad, then you can eat it.

But why do we have to do this? Is wasting a bit of food such a huge problem?

根据联合国粮农组织2019年的报道,在超过八千万人口还在挨饿的世界里,我们每年浪费着13亿吨的食物,而这,是世界年产量的三分之一。(FAO, 2019)(“FAO – News Article: Food wastage: Key facts and figures”, 2020)

According to the report from FAO in 2019, in a world with more than 820 million people starving, we are wasting 1.3 billion tonnes of edible food per year – this is a third of the world production.(FAO, 2019)(“FAO – News Article: Food wastage: Key facts and figures”, 2020)

其中,很大一部分都发生在 “Distribution” (分配) 和“Consumption” (消费)这两个环节上(Food wastage footprint, 2013)。所以,从消费者这里入手,似乎是个有效的方案。

Of which, a large part of wastage happens during distribution and consumption stages in the supply chain(Food wastage footprint, 2013). From this point of view, starting from us – the customers, seems not to be a bad idea.

中国, 北美, 还是德国?

A comprison between China, North America, and Germany

中国 China


As a Chinese, I always feel the emphasis of traditional cuture on “protecting the environment” and “saving the food”. From kindergarten, children learn traditional poetry “谁知盘中餐,粒粒皆辛苦”, which literally translate to: Who knows the dishes food, each grain is from the hard work.


Growing up in a definitely not rich family, we never waste any food. If you have leftover this meal, you eat it in your next meal. Good food will never end up in the garbage bin. Even the sprouted garlic, we will grow them in the kitchen.



That is also why I was so shocked when I realized how much food people can buy and throw out in North America after I moved there.

北美 North America


Especially if you have ever seen the pictures of Walmart garbage bins, you must be thinking the same – what is the possible logical explanation behind this?

屏幕截图 2020-10-28 124516

(沃尔玛的垃圾桶)(“Here’s how much food Walmart throws away over 12 days | CBC News”, 2020)


Regarding this kind of a “North America Specialty”, I concluded a few points:

1. Store overstocks 积压太多的东西


Driven by economic factors, supermarkets usually put more than one of the same product on the shelf. The reason is, customers naturally assume the last one is the worse one and not buy it.

2. Looking good? Aesthetic 不够好看,扔掉


Many of the not-so-perfect farm produce is thrown away in the first selection stage.

3. Health safety concerns 健康安全顾虑

尽管在北美,捐赠食物有法律保护(Good Samaritan Food Donation Act)不会被起诉,企业却仍不愿意冒风险。

In North America, even the act of food donation is protected by the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, it is still hard to persuade companies to take any risk without benefits.

4. Donation is not free! 捐赠不是免费的!

当我看到这些被浪费的食物,我抱怨“为什么他们不捐赠给有需要的人呢?”。但是我忽略掉的,是“捐赠”这一过程中,隐形的花费。不管是打包,运输,还是雇佣人员负责捐赠事项,都是一笔开支,而以利益为导向的企业们,又为何要浪费金钱在这上面呢?(Food Waste: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO), 2020)

Every time when I see food being wasted, I complain about why don’t they just give to the people in need. But somehow I ignored one thing important – during the process of “donation”, there are many hidden costs: packaging, shipping, workers’ salaries, etc. For the profit-motivated companies, why should they waste any investment on this?(Food Waste: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO), 2020)


I understand this point, especially after I volunteered for distributing free food in a food rescue program in Vancouver, a huge bunch of time, energy, gas, and insurance were put into it. For many others, how can this be attractive?

(我录制的一段视频展示我们的工作流程)This video shows how we work together and deliver free meal.

德国 Germany

个人的经验给我的感受是,德国人很在乎“食品的质量”。而这一点,恰恰帮助了他们减少食品浪费。在工业化后,美国人对食品的感激已经大幅下降(Low appreciation for food after the industrialization),从他们近乎疯狂堆积糖分,盐分和油脂的食品构成,就能看到这一影响。

My personal experience tells me: Food quality is really important to German people. Because they care, it actually helps them reduce the amount of food waste. After the industrialization happened in the food sector, Americans’ appreciation for food has been significantly lower than ever. From their highly sugary, salty, and oily food, we can see the effects of it.


Be grateful to your food, naturally, you will care about it more.

正是如此,德国发布了”Zu gut für die Tonne!” (too good to throw away,太好了不能扔掉!) 行动,网站上提供了从存储食物到重新加工剩菜的各种建议(“Startseite”, 2020)。

As so, the initiative “Zu gut für die Tonne!” (too good to throw away) in Germany provides a lot of suggestions and help from food storage to reuse leftovers(“Startseite”, 2020).


Starting from a box of yogurt, I am happy that I can discuss so much more on this topic and be able to share a bit of my experience in China, North America, and Germany. Growing up with appreciation towards food as part of my Chinese heritage, just like the other Asian stereotypes – growing vegetables everywhere and collecting plastic bags at any time, it is something worth being proud of.

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