In a study commissioned by the UNâ€™s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology (SIK) found that approximately 1.3 billion tons of food is lost or wasted per year—an unnecessary loss of food that needs to be prevented.
Titled “Global Food Losses and Food Waste,” the study formed the basis of the May 2011 Save Food! event in Dusseldorf, Germany. Save Food! is an international congress (co-organized by Interpack 2011 and FAO) with the aim to raise awareness on global food waste and its impact on world poverty and hunger as well as climate change and the environment.
The study found that more food is wasted on a per-capita basis in industrialized countries than in the developing world. In Europe and North America, for example, 95-115kg of food is wasted per year while in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast/South Asia, the average is 6-11kg of food loss per year.
In medium-high income countries, food is usually wasted at the consumption stage, meaning that perfectly eatable food is simply thrown away. This may be due to farmers producing too many crops, food items failing to meet aesthetic standards (such as shape and appearance), or basic consumer carelessness.
In low income countries, food is often lost during the early or middle stages of the food supply chain. Losses are attributed to such factors as poor harvesting techniques, inadequate storage and cooling facilities, and poor marketing systems.
How can these problems be addressed?
The study recommends that in industrialized countries, food industries, consumers, retailers are made aware of the consequences of their food behavior and figure out ways in which perfectly safe food can be used rather than wasted. In developing countries, food supply chains need to be strengthened through public and private investment in infrastructure, transportation and the food and packaging industries.
With difficulties in meeting the food needs of an ever-increasing global population, the study shows how preventing food waste alone can have a significant impact on ensuring global food security.
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