Follow Mint Lounge

Latest Issue

Home > Food> Discover > The curious case of food waste in competitive eating challenges

The curious case of food waste in competitive eating challenges

In China, competitive eating challenges might be banned but they are thriving in other parts of the world like the United States

Competitive food challenges may or may not promote food waste, depending on who you ask.
Competitive food challenges may or may not promote food waste, depending on who you ask. (Niklas Rhose, Unsplash)

A local restaurant in Yibin City in China found itself in hot water on Sunday for a competitive eating event called The King of Big Stomach Challenge. Diners had to eat 108 spicy wonton dumplings as quickly as possible to win a free meal. The restaurant may be fined up to 10,000 yuan ( 1.5 lakhs approx) for the challenge by Chinese authorities, reports the CNN story, Authorities swoop on Chinese restaurant that challenged customers to eat 108 dumplings. This fine was imposed because authorities claim diners may not be able to finish the challenge. It will lead to enormous food waste which is prohibited in accordance with an anti-food waste law passed in the country in 2021. (The name of the eatery has not been revealed by the Chinese authorities).  

This raises the age-old question, are food challenges wasteful? When diners cannot finish the food, it inevitably gets thrown away. According to a report titled UNEP Food Waste Index Report 2021 published by the United Nations Environment Programme in 2021, nearly 17% of all food available at consumer levels, in households, retailers, and restaurants, is wasted. However, this does not discourage organisers of food challenges. 

Also Read | The deceptively simple idea that saves food from being wasted

For example, last week, to commemorate the American Independence Day on 4 July, a food competition called Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest was held in New York City for the 51st time. The competition saw winners Joey Chestnut and Miki Sudo eat 62 and 39.5 hot dogs respectively in ten minutes.   

The contest attracts 40,000 fans each year and is broadcast on sports channel ESPN to nearly 20 lakh viewers, says the official website. A 2013 article,  Eating Contests: American Shame, published by Huffington Post criticizes the hot dog eating competition and such challenges in general, calling them “particularly revolting” and “a blatant commentary on over-consumption in general.”  

However, there’s another side to the story. According to Randy Santel, the co-owner of, a website that provides guidance to individuals trying to get into eating contests, these challenges are not wasteful because professional eaters tend to finish the challenges they attempt. In an article, titled Are Food Challenges Wasteful, on the website, he explains that competitive eaters never let food go to waste, even if it gets cold. According to his experience, competitive eaters also finish leftovers to avoid wastage. Santel has over 16 lakh YouTube subscribers (@RandySantel) where he attempts to eat massive amounts of food.  

In another story on the website, How To Reduce Food Challenge Waste, published in 2018, Santel explains that food waste might occur during an eating competition because the diner cannot finish all their food. To limit food wastage, restaurants can let people take leftovers home to eat later, only bring out small portions of food at a time, or reuse the leftovers to make a delicious meal.    

Also Read | Make a meal for champions with recipes on reducing food waste

Next Story