Best Before!

When Food Becomes Waste.

18. November 2020 – 16. May 2021
Special exhibition in the four cabinets and two exhibition halls.
The special exhibition “Best Before” takes a look at the reasons behind food waste. Farming, manufacturing, shops, homes, restaurants: the causes of this phenomenon are diverse – and disturbing.

Just a few decades ago, throwing away edible food would have been unthinkable. That attitude has changed radically in recent years. It is estimated that at least one third of global food production now ends up being thrown away, with drastic social and environmental consequences. The best before date is just one of many factors which contribute to this loss of food. Most items remain edible beyond this date, but retailers often dispose of goods even before they expire in order to make space for new ones.

A close look at the food production chain shows the dramatic extent of food waste. It begins on the farm and ends in our homes. According to recent studies, about 133 kg of edible food end up in the thrash in every Austrian household per year. That corresponds to a value of 250 to 800 €!

In many cases, arbitrary selling standards mean that fruit and vegetables of excellent quality don’t even reach the consumer. Instead, they must be destroyed before leaving the farm. Decisions on what to sell are taken by retailers, who in turn are driven by consumer demand. In many cases, the standards expected by citizens are stricter than those imposed by the state.

In low-income countries, food is often lost as a result of inadequate equipment used in harvest, storage or transport, for example if it is not possible to keep certain foods cool all the way to the place of sale. In high-income countries, on the other hand, food loss is mostly due to selling standards or careless consumers. Here, people can simply afford to waste food.

The right to food is a fundamental human right. At the same time, food production is a strain on the Earth's natural resources. One third of all greenhouse gases come from food production. Simply halving the amount of food we waste would save the same amount of greenhouse gases as taking 50 % of all cars off the road. Soon we will no longer be able to afford to waste food.

The exhibition presents eye-catching facts and figures. Even more importantly, it shows what we can do to escape this vicious circle of food waste. After all, the individual decisions we make as consumers can help change the world.
Accompanying the exhibition are a number of talks, workshops for school children, etc. held in cooperation with partners such as the Wiener Tafel, a charity in Vienna which collects unwanted food from retailers and redistributes it to those in need. All events will take place in line with the latest rules on restricting the spread of COVID-19.
© Josef Siffert