Over a third of the world’s food wasted

In a world in which millions go hungry each day it is shocking that we who are fortunate enough to be concerned that we are overweight don’t do more to see that food is not wasted…..From BIZCOMMUNITY.com Click on this image to download the report in pdf format

Every year, almost one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption – approximately 1.3 billion tons – is lost or wasted, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said Wednesday, 11 May 2011.

The Rome-based FAO cited the findings of a report: Global Food Losses and Food Waste, which it commissioned from the Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology for Save Food!, an international congress being held in Dusseldorf 16 – 17 May.

The study also found that industrialized and developing countries dissipate roughly the same quantities of food – respectively 670 and 630 million tons.

The report distinguished between what it called “food loss” and “food waste.”

It found that food losses – occurring at the production, harvest, post-harvest and processing phases – are most important in developing countries, due to poor infrastructure, low levels of technology and low investment in the food production systems.

In contrast, food waste is more a problem in industrialized countries, most often caused by both retailers and consumers throwing perfectly edible foodstuffs into the trash.

Per capita waste by consumers is 95-115 kilograms a year in Europe and North America, while consumers in sub-Saharan Africa and South and Southeast Asia each throw away only 6-11 kilograms a year.

Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food – 222 million tons – as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa of 230 million tons, according to the report.

Fruit and vegetables, plus roots and tubers have the highest wastage rates of any food.

The report offered a number of suggestions on how to reduce losses and waste, including the need for developing countries to assist small-scale farmers to link up directly to buyers.

The private and public sectors should also invest more in infrastructure, transportation and in processing and packaging.

In middle- and high-income countries, food losses and waste stem largely from the tendency to “over-emphasize appearance” of products such as fruit and vegetables.

The report cited surveys showing that consumers are willing to buy produce that does not meet appearance standards, as long as it is safe and tastes good.

“Customers thus have the power to influence quality standards and should do so,” the report said.

Consumers in rich countries are also generally encouraged to buy more food than they need, including “buy three, pay two” promotions and in restaurants that offer fixed-price buffets that spur customers to heap their plates, the report said.

Education in schools and political initiatives are possible starting points to changing consumer attitudes, the report suggested.

“Rich-country consumers should be taught that throwing food away needlessly is unacceptable,” FAO said.

From The Gaurdian

A Filipino scavenger collects food waste from a market in Manila, Philippines. Photograph: Joshua Mark E Dalupang/EPA

The average European or North American consumer wastes 95kg-115kg of food a year, above all fruits and vegetables. In contrast, the average consumer in sub-Saharan Africa, south Asia or south-east Asia wastes only 6kg-11kg. The study notes that in developing countries poverty and limited incomes make it unacceptable to waste food, and that poor consumers in low-income countries generally buy smaller amounts of food at a time.

Food wasted by consumers in rich countries (222m tonnes) is roughly equal to the entire food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230m tonnes).

Looking for solutions, the report argues that reducing reliance on retailers such as big supermarkets could help cut food waste in the north, and suggests promoting the direct sale of farm produce to consumers. It also encourages retailers and charities to work together, to distribute unsold but perfectly edible food that would otherwise go to waste.

For developing countries, the study says the key lies in strengthening food supply chains, urging investment in infrastructure and transportation, along with increased attention to food storage, processing and packaging.

While world food prices fell slightly in March this year – after eight months of successive increases – the overall cost of food in April was 36% higher than it was last year. Prices of wheat, maize and soya reached levels last seen in 2008, when a global food crisis sparked food riots across the developing world. Last month, the World Bank said thatrising food prices had pushed 44 million more people into extreme poverty, and the World Bank president, Robert Zoellick, added that an additional 10 million people could soon fall below the $1.25 a day extreme poverty line unless immediate action was taken to increase the supply of food.

But the FAO-backed report says: “Food production must clearly increase significantly to meet the future demands of an increasing and more affluent world population … In a world with limited natural resources (land, water, energy, fertiliser), and where cost-effective solutions are to be found to produce enough safe and nutritious food for all, reducing food losses should not be a forgotten priority.”

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