Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (2014–…): Season 2, Episode 21 - Food Waste - full transcript

Iran nuclear treaty; El Chapo prison escape; North Korea hosting Laibach band; food waste.

Are you wondering how healthy the food you are eating is? Check it -
With John Oliver

Episode 21

Welcome, welcome, welcome to Last
Week Tonight. I'm John Oliver.

Thank you so much for joining us.

Just time for a quick recap
of the week.

It has been dominated by America's
relationship with Iran.

It's the "Star Wars" of international
relationships good in the seventies,

terrible for a long time, and now,
hopefully, on the brink of a revival.

Because this week,
we got some major news.

Today President Obama announced
an agreement he says will keep

an atomic bomb out of Iranian hands
for more than a decade.

This deal offers an opportunity
to move in a new direction.

We should seize it.

Wow, you can tell the president
means business because he's speaking

from the "I killed Bin Laden

and threw him in the ocean" wing
of the White House.

And you can tell that Biden means
business because he is locking eyes

with the camera like a silverback
gorilla who thinks you're challenging

his alpha status.

"You wanna dance, motherfucker ?
Iran's not going nuclear,

but Joey B might. Do you want
to dance with me ?"

In his address, the president wanted
to make it clear,

just because he was making
a deal with Iran,

did not mean he fully trusted them.

This deal is not built on trust.
It is built on verification.

Inspectors will have 24/7 access
to Iran's key nuclear facilities.

And that's a reasonable request.
After all, Iran developed

nuclear facilities in secret, and then,
when they were discovered, claimed

they were for civilian purposes.
Which is a bit like having

your girlfriend discover your real doll
and saying "wait, what ? I'm getting

my lifeguard certification,
and they require that your CPR dummy

have a medically accurate anus
and vagina. I'm allowed this."

And it's perhaps that lack of trust
which is why the terms of this agreement

are so severe.

Iran will remove two thirds of its
installed centrifuges.

Iran will not use its advanced
centrifuges to produce enriched uranium

for the next decade. Iran will
also get rid of 98 percent

of its stockpile of enriched uranium.
That stockpile will be reduced

to a fraction of what would be
required for a single weapon.

Yes, if they obey the terms of the deal,
Iran won't have enough material

to make a single bomb. And if you're
wondering if they could make

one really teeny bomb that they could
strap to a suicide hamster

and use to blow up a mailbox,
well no. We asked. And no.

They can't do that, it's, they
can't do it. We did ask though.

There was actually a good reason
the president was making a hard sell

for this deal he knew
that there were some who

within hours of the deal being
announced simply would not be able

to wait to start criticizing it.

This is a bad deal.
The worst possible outcome,

is you've created a nuclear arms
race in the Mideast,

you put Israel at risk and you
put us at risk.

The only other thing that I would
add is that we don't know

all the specifics to this plan.

- That's true.
- You yourself haven't read anything...

That's true.

He hadn't read it !

Lindsey Graham is discussing the Iran
deal the way a four year old talks

about broccoli. "It's disgusting.
It's the worst food in the world."

"Have you ever tried broccoli ?"
"No. I have not, but I know I hate it."

And Lindsey Graham, to be fair, wasn't
alone in criticizing the deal

based solely on what he thought
it contained.

The deal that we have out there,
in my view, from what I know of it

thus far, is unacceptable. If, in fact,
it's as bad a deal as I think it is

at this moment, we'll do everything
we can to stop it.

Wait, as bad as you think it is ?

That is a clear sign that you didn't
do the reading. It's like,

it's like starting a book report
"some of us are of mice

while other are of course.. of men.

There have been many good Gatsbys
in history, but only one

that I would call the Great Gatsby."

The things is, how can you not read
this deal before commenting ?

It's only 159 pages long, and much
of that is lists and preamble.

The actual meat of the agreement
is about 90 pages, making it

around half the length of "Babysitter's
Club" number one "Kristy's Great Idea."

I'm not saying the deal is perfect.
I'm just saying,

think of the nuclear agreement
with Iran as a calzone.

It could contain a lot of things from
cheese, marinara sauce

to a dead mouse.

But the point is, you don't get
to complain about what might be inside

unless you have fucking looked.

So let's move on now to Mexico.
Or, as you may know it, spicy Canada.

Last weekend, Mexico's leading drug
boss, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman,

escaped from prison. Just wait until
you hear the details of how he got out.

Mexican government taking ABC News
through the now notorious tunnel

running nearly
a full mile underground

from the shower
in El Chapo's prison cell

all the way to a half built house used
to hide an estimated 379 truckloads

of dirt pulled out of the ground
to make that tunnel. Look closely.

You can see rails. Authorities finding
this modified motorcycle down below,

as well.

Listen, listen, I know El Chapo is
a bad man, but that is incredible.

He escaped through a literal
underground railroad,

built using a tiny motorbike.

The plan he designed
when he was 12 worked.

Now clearly, clearly the Mexican
authorities have some serious questions

to answer, especially considering this
could hardly have been a surprise.

He is and has been known for years
as the tunnel specialist.

He has been known to bring
sophisticated equipment, engineers

and others, to build tunnels on
the US-Mexican border for years.

Perhaps it was so obvious that they
just discarded it as a possibility.

That's the point. Of course El Chapo
was going to escape through a tunnel.

It's as inevitable as Wes Anderson's
next movie featuring

an eccentrically dressed Bill Murray,
a Kinks soundtrack

and the memory of how much you liked
"Rushmore." It's going to happen !

And look, if you're thinking, "well,
sure, they knew he liked tunnels,

but how could they possibly have known
he would dig one under his bathroom ?"

This is how he escaped the Mexican
military just a year and a half ago.

When they got inside, El Chapo
was nowhere to be found.

But they did find this....

The tub. Look at this.
The escape hatch

Underneath is the
entranceway to a hidden tunnel.

He escaped through a bathroom
based tunnel ! Come on, Mexico !

You have to know, you cannot allow
this man near plumbing.

You can't allow it.

And you don't even need his past
history to know that. Look at him !

He is just one M on his hat away from
looking like a psychopathic Super Mario.

You have to see it coming.
And finally,

finally this week North Korea,
earth's Florida.

Next month, is the 70th anniversary
of Korea's liberation day,

the date marking the end
of Japanese colonial rule.

The big question is, what do you get
the country that is ordered

to think it has everything ?
Apparently, Kim Jong Un has decided

that for the first time ever
a foreign rock band will play there.

So who's it gonna be ?
Rolling Stones ? U2 ?

A Michael Jackson impersonator
passed off as the real thing,

'cause North Koreans don't know
he's dead yet ? Well, well no.

Because it turns out it's going to be
and this is true,

a Slovenian art rock group
called Laibach.

If you're not familiar with them,
this is the happy celebratory music

that North Koreans will be listening
to on their special anniversary.

Europe is falling apart.

Europe is falling apart.

Europe is falling apart.

Happy liberation day, North Korea.

Sleep well.

Look, Laibach might
seem like an odd choice.

But you can understand what
totalitarian dictator Kim Jong Un

might see in them, when you watch
their video "Dance with Laibach".

We dance with fascism
and red anarchy.

Give me both your hands
one, two, three, four.

Of course Kim Jong Un loves this
band ! That video is basically

his answer to, "where do you see
yourself in five years ?"

"I dunno, probably leading a skeleton
army into battle if all goes well."

Now, you probably won't be surprised
to learn that Laibach has been accused

of glorifying fascism in the past,
to which their response has been

"we are fascists as much
as Hitler was a painter."

Which I assume means they are
fascists, they're just very bad at it.

But before you worry that their music
might be too much of a downer

for the people of North Korea,
please know that Laibach

promised the program will also feature
and this is true,

them reinterpreting songs
from the "Sound of Music."

Which, yes, sounds a little weird,
but it actually wouldn't be

the first time they've brought
that fun Laibach touch

to other people's music. I give you
their absolutely inexplicable cover

of "Sympathy for the Devil."

Pleased to meet you,
Hope you guessed my name.

But what's puzzling you
Is just the nature of my game.

Finally we have an answer to the
question what if Freddie Mercury

was trapped in a cave, had just
swallowed a frog,

and was trying to sing it out ?
I have got to say

North Korea seems like
a terrifying place to visit.

But if it is really true that
that guy is going to be singing

"the Sound of Music"
I kind of want to go there.

I need to hear him bark about
whiskers on kittens. And now this.

And now, CBS This Morning's
awkward sex talk.

Men average about 14 sexual partners
during their lifetime

and women average about 8.

Do those numbers seem
about right to you guys ?

Charlie says look, I only have
ten fingers and ten toes.

That's not right.

- No, Charlie says I'm not going there.
- Oh okay.

It is hard to cover both boobs with
one arm. Try that, that's a sport.

Depending on the size
of your boobs, actually.

Do you have a comment, dear ?


If you have sex on the first date,
do you think less of a person

who has sex with you
on the first date ?

- No !
- You don't ?

For most men, their definition of great
sex is if their partner says

that was great sex.

It's true.

- Is that true ?
- No.

Charlie, don't you like a girl in
wings ? I need to get me some wings.

- I like a girl in Victoria's Secret.
- Okay. That works too.

Moving on our main story tonight
concerns food, or as plants and animals

might call it, the afterlife.
We love food in America.

As you would know, if you've ever
turned on a television set.

IHOP all you can eat pancakes
are back.

Introducing all you can eat wings !

Only at Golden Corral !

Everyone's favorite endless shrimp
is back ! People wait

for this promotion all year long.

Riblets, riblets, riblets !
Applebee's has riblets !

All that you can eat now riblets !

"Sadness, sadness, sadness !
Let food replace your sadness !

Stuff riblets in that hole
in your heart !"

That's a catchy way to sell
hog scraps hidden in barbecue sauce.

In fact, celebrating America often
goes hand in hand

with celebrating its food. Watch this
actual commercial running right now.

What's more American than
a cheeseburger ? This cheeseburger.

Loaded with a hotdog and potato chips.

In the hands of all American model
Samantha Hoops. In a hot tub.

In a pickup truck. Driven by
an American bull rider.

On an aircraft carrier. Under the gaze
of Lady Liberty. As she admires

the most American thickburger.

New at Carl's Jr. and Hardee's.

Wow! A cheeseburger with hot dog
and potato chips.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you
the new Confederate flag.

She's majestic.

But this is not a story
about the food we eat.

It's a story about the food
we don't eat. Because there is

a surprising amount of it.

A report by the Natural Resources
Defense Council says that

as much as 40% of all food produced
in the United States never gets eaten.

Americans throw away 165
billion dollars worth of food

every year. That's about twenty
pounds per person every month.

Americans throw away enough food
every year

to fill 730 football stadiums.

Food waste is like the band Rascal
Flatts it can fill a surprising number

of stadiums even though many
people consider it complete garbage.

Between producers, sellers and
consumers, Americans are throwing out

a third or more of our food.
The amount we throw out has increased

by around 50 percent since the 1970s.
At this rate, in 40 years,

when you order pizza from Dominos,
they'll just deliver it

straight to the nearest dumpster.
As they should,

but that's not the point here.
And if you think that this sounds bad,

just wait until you see how it looks.
Check out this waste dump

in California's Salinas Valley.

We got a whole load pretty much
of loose organic lettuce.

We've got spinach towards the back.

Looks like it's perfectly fine,
nothing wrong with it.

We got some, some kale here. We got
broccoli in the back as well.

We have plenty of produce
to make a salad here.

Oh, not just a salad. You could make
a significantly better salad

than the salads they actually
sell at McDonalds,

which look like the trimmings in
Ronald McDonald's lawnmower mixed

with grimace ejaculate.
And the thing is,

watching all that food go from
farm to not a table

is awful for a bunch of reasons.
First, and most obviously,

there are many people in this country
who need that food.

In 2013, nearly 50 million Americans
lived in food insecure households,

meaning that at some point in the
year, they struggled to put

enough food on the table. The fact
that we throw away a third of our food

gets pretty alarming when you hear
from some of those people.

It's hard. I'll go without food
before my kids will.

Budget is down to the penny
and it's just not enough still.

- It brings you to tears.
- Yeah.

- Why ?
- It's just hard.

They're so young and it's hard.

It is crazy that that is happening
in a country with 730 football stadiums

full of uneaten food. It's insane.
But there are also other,

less obvious consequences
to discarding food. For a start,

we're wasting all the labor and natural
resources that went into making it.

And at a time when the landscape
of California is shriveling up

like a pumpkin in front of a house
with a lazy dad,

it seems especially unwise that
farmers are pumping water into food

that ends up being used as a garnish
for landfills. Because those landfills

go on to cause problems of their own.

If you were to throw an apple core
out just out into the woods,

it's not a big deal. The problem comes
when all of that waste is aggregated

and it decomposing without air
in a landfill.

That anaerobic condition is what creates
methane, which is a greenhouse gas

that's more than 20 times
as potent as CO2 at trapping heat.

That's right when we dump food
into a landfill,

we're essentially throwing a trash
blanket over a flatulent food,

man and Dutch oven'ing the entire
planet. And if you're thinking,

"but hold on, John, what if I'm
an asshole who couldn't give a shit

about America's hungry families or the
long term viability of life on earth ?"

Well, first, let me say, Mr. Trump,
thank you so much for taking the time

to watch this show tonight.
It's lovely to have you with us.

And secondly, don't worry there is
a selfish financial reason

for you to care about this story,

In our households, we're wasting
between 15 and 25 % of the food

that we're buying. That's expensive.
Imagine walking out of a grocery store

with four bags of groceries,
dropping one in the parking lot

and just not bothering to pick it up.
That's essentially

what we're doing in our homes today.

And that's not good. When you're
throwing away that much food,

you're not just being wasteful,
you're wining and dining raccoons.

"This is absolutely lovely !
Thanks for this !

We needed a break from the kids !"

And look, it's a good thing
so many of us have access

to plenty of relatively
inexpensive food.

I love that we live in a country with
with Cap'n Crunch, Peanut butter crunch,

Chocolatey crunch, Sprinkled donut
crunch, Cinnamon roll crunch,

Christmas crunch
and Halloween crunch.

I will even defend Oops All Berries
Crunch a cereal so unnecessary

that its actual name includes
an apology for its existence.

But it does seem like our food
wastage is getting to a critical mass.

And so much of it stems from our
own habits and misconceptions.

For instance stores big and small
often routinely overstock,

so that you can walk
in and see tons of food there.

Because if they don't that, as this
small farm stand operator describes it,

we might not buy anything.

If this is what I had and there was
an hour left in the market.

That one bunch of chards would sit
there and no one would buy it.

But if I had 30 bunches of chard
all like bursting out,

I'd probably sell like 25 of those
bunches of chard. What does that say ?

People are totally impulse shopping.
And they think if there's one left,

that there's something wrong with it.

It's true. I wouldn't buy that chard.
Partly because it's chard,

but mainly because we naturally assume
the last option is a bad option.

Which, in many contexts,
is absolutely the case.

For example you don't want the last
magazine in the doctor's office,

because it's always "Golf Digest".

And no one has ever read "Golf Digest."
It's not even a golf club in his hand,

but no one noticed,
because it's on "Golf Digest."

But when it comes to produce, the last
option is probably completely fine.

Especially because, as another farmer
explains, even slightly sub par fruits

and vegetables don't make it
to the produce aisle.

Every time that the people are picking,
they'll have a few they throw

on the ground, because there's always
a few that aren't quite perfect.

This is a perfectly good peach.
Right on the ground like this.

My God, if you just look down this way,
it's like a bounty. Look at that.

And the reason that happens is

that if a peach doesn't meet strict
aesthetic standards,

it might not be worth a farmer
even trying to sell it.

Our produce aisles have become a lot
like Leonardo DiCaprio's penis,

exclusively accessible
to the physically flawless.

And it's not right.
That's not right.

In fact, our produce body shaming
is actually so ingrained,

it's reflected in the USDA's
grading standards. Just look

at the visual grading standards
for peaches. This is a no. 1 peach.

And of course it is. That's an
undeniably beautiful peach.

I want to buy that peach dinner
and fuck it.

Whereas, whereas
- and brace yourself -

this is a US number two peach. And that
is an abomination unto the Lord.

And as soon as it is labeled
a number two, it can lose two thirds

of its market value to a farmer,
even though its contents are the same.

And many retailers have standards
even more strict than the USDA's.

All of which is why so many peaches end
up being thrown on the ground to rot.

And that should not be
how we treat our fruit.

It should only be how
we treat our celebrities.

So help me God, Channing Tatum,
you lose one muscle fiber

on that six pack, and I will personally
toss you into Hollywood's landfill.

You keep it tight, Tatum.
Hashtag, keepittighttatum. Do it.

And the thing is, we don't just
reject food because of how it looks.

Sometimes, we do it out
of pure fear.

According to one estimate, 91 percent
of us have thrown out food

that's past its sell by date,
because we're afraid it's not safe.

And I am absolutely part of that
91 percent. We're weirdly reverent

towards these dates,
even when they make no sense.

Use by, sell by. And nothing.
But just a date.

- And this is all the same brand.
- This is all the same brand.

This is not only the same brand,
but also the same 2%.

So what does this show us ?

This shows there's complete
confusion out there.

The only labels on food more
meaningless than those

are the ones on Smirnoff bottles
that say "triple distilled vodka."

Oh really, Smirnoff ? So you ran
the potato sweat through the tube sock

two extra times ?
Thanks for spending the effort.

We naturally assume sell by dates
reflect a uniform standard of safety.

But that is not true.
Well, actually it has nothing to do

with safety at all. It's just
a manufacturers best guess of when

that food is gonna be the freshest
and at the best quality.

Exactly, those dates are decided on
by manufacturers.

And if I were a food manufacturer, I'd
make those dates as tight as possible

to convince people to buy
a new one of my products.

Because unlike Apple, I can't just
create a new operating system

that suddenly means your old cereal
is incompatible with your mouth.

The truth is, with the exception of
baby formula, the federal government

does not require any food to carry
an expiration date.

And state laws vary widely,
with nine states not requiring

any date labels at all. Which means,
most of the time, sell by dates

are one of those things
that look official,

but you can probably ignore,
like a child in a cop uniform.

Just stop it, Tyler. I'm not under
"awwest !" You're under awwest !

But because we think those dates
are real, many supermarkets

throw expired food out even
before its sell by date.

And they don't donate it for what
they think is a pretty good reason.

Do you have anything that's close
dated or any culls ?

- No, we can't do that.
- You can't ?

No. It's a food and health
and safety issues.

Do you guys donate it then ?
You don't donate.

It goes right in the garbage can.

We do it because we'd get
too many lawsuits.

It's too many lawsuits ?
Have you guys been sued before ?

I don't know, to tell you the truth.
But it's a health and safety issue.

That's a common misconception.
We all think that if you donate food

and someone gets sick,
you could get sued.

I thought that until earlier this week.
But we looked into it

and couldn't find a single case
where a food donor has been sued.

It doesn't happen. It's a false fear,
like believing if you go in the water

after eating you'll get a cramp
and drown. It turns out,

that isn't true, either.
This week has blown my mind !

Because the system is, if you donate
food to a charity,

you're covered by the Emerson Act,
which says you cannot be sued

if you make a food donation
in good faith.

You presumably get the same cover
with donating clothes, even though,

in some cases there
you really should be sued.

Donating a cowl neck sweater ?
Hello ?! The homeless live in shelters,

not fall 2008.

But here's the problem even
if more people understood that,

there would still be food that
doesn't get to people who need it,

for a critical reason.

Harold McClarty of HMC Farms says
he'd like to donate more of his peaches

to the food banks but...

Getting it into the hands of
somebody to eat, it isn't free.

There's got to be an economic
incentive to move more of this

into an avenue that food banks could
take advantage of.

It's a lot easier and cheaper just
to basically throw it away.

And that may be
the biggest issue of all.

For businesses, donating food
is genuinely expensive.

You've got to box it, store it,
coordinate deliveries for it...

There's a lot of overheads.
And you cannot fault companies

for caring about their bottom line,
in the same way you can't fault a dog

for caring about licking its balls.
It's what dogs do. It's natural.

And dog balls are delicious.

Companies, in their defense,
are not charities.

Which is why they should be
incentivized to donate food

with tax breaks. Large corporations
already get one. But annoyingly,

that same break for small businesses
is not a permanent part

of the tax code. Meaning
that Congress has to keep renewing it.

That's a problem because family farms
or local restaurants may not know

if they're going to get that break
at the end of the year

and therefore whether donating food
will be financially viable for them.

It's a ridiculous system,

which probably prevents a lot of food
from being donated.

So here is the good news:

in February this year, a congressman
proposed HR 644,

the Fighting Hunger Incentive Act,
to make that tax break permanent.

Here actually is one
of the bill's sponsors.

It's time to get rid of these short term
fixes, embrace long term solutions.

This legislation simply makes
the provisions permanent.

And when you think about it,
that's important,

because when something's not
permanent, it affects our behavior.

That's why we all treat rental
cars like

we're in a "Fast and Furious" movie.
"Oh I'm sorry, sharp turn ahead ?

Get ready to drift,
Kia Sorrento. Woo !"

Now, now you'll be happy to hear,
that bill passed the House.

However, by the time it did, it had
been bundled together with other,

unpaid for tax breaks, and retitled
the America Gives More Act.

But still, that original provision
was in there. Which means

this problem has been solved, the show
is over and we can roll credits

and all live happily ever after,
right ?

No, not right.

Because when the bill got
to the Senate, they,

and I honestly did not know
this was even possible,

they removed everything from inside
the bill, retitled it

the Trade Facilitation and Trade
Enforcement Act of 2015,

refilled it with completely different
language concerning border control

and US-Israeli relations.
Which meant yes, HR 644 passed,

just with a completely different title
and completely different contents.

It's like going to a restaurant,
ordering a veggie burger

and having the waiter say "here you
go, we made it out of meatloaf

and we call it a waffle."
And then you can't even say,

"well I don't want this, give it
to someone who needs it,

because they can't, because they
don't know whether or not

they'll get a fucking tax credit
for it. And look, the insane thing

is everyone basically agrees,
small businesses should get

tax incentives to donate food. So
we have to find a way to pass that.

But even if we do, it will be
one small part of what needs to be

a much bigger solution,
from resolving to eat uglier fruit,

to taking expiration dates
with a pinch of salt,

to no longer worrying about getting
sued by high powered lawyers

representing the hungry. And we all
have to address our relationship

with food waste. Or at the very
least, our cheeseburger commercials

are going to have to get
a lot more honest.

What's more American
than a cheeseburger ?

This cheeseburger, loaded with
a hot dog and potato chips.

In the hands of a model. In a hot tub.
In a pick up truck.

On an aircraft carrier. In front
of the Statue of Liberty.

I'll tell you what's more American.
If that cheeseburger's

then thrown away, along
with 15 other cheeseburgers

in front of a food insecure
family of four

who frankly cannot fucking believe
their eyes. As they stand on top

of 14 tons of perfectly edible if
aesthetically unappealing fruits

and vegetables. Which in turn sits
on top of 80 tons of diary products,

all one day past their arbitrary
sell by date. All of which sits

inside a tear, rolling down Abraham
Lincoln's face on Mount Rushmore,

which is now nearly chin deep in
millions of discarded cheeseburgers,

all gradually decomposing and emitting
flammable methane

in red, white and blue.

That is fucking American !

Available in dumpsters behind
Carl's Jr. and Hardee's.

That's our show. Thank you so much
for watching. Good night !

With John Oliver