What is in this article?:
- One third of worldâ€™s food wasted each year
- Squandering resources
- Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tons — gets lost or wasted, according to an FAO-commissioned study.
Food loss and waste also amount to a major squandering of resources, including water, land, energy, labor and capital and needlessly produce greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to global warming and climate change. The report offered a number of practical suggestions on how to reduce losses and waste. â€¨â€¨In developing countries the problem is chiefly one of inadequate harvest techniques, poor post-harvest management and logistics, lack of suitable infrastructure, processing and packaging, and lack of marketing information which would allow production to better match demand.
The advice is therefore to strengthen the food supply chain by assisting small farmers to link 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 consumer behavior but also from lack of communication between different actors in the supply chain.
Over-emphasis on appearance
At retail level, large quantities of food are also wasted due to quality standards that over-emphasize appearance. Surveys show that consumers are willing to buy produce not meeting 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. Selling farm produce closer to consumers, without having to conform to supermarkets' quality standards, is another suggestion. This could be achieved through farmers' markets and farm shops. Good use for food that would otherwise be thrown away should be found. Commercial and charity organizations could work with retailers to collect, and then sell or use products that have been disposed of but are still good in terms of safety, taste and nutritional value.
Changing consumer attitudes
Consumers in rich countries are generally encouraged to buy more food than they need. "Buy three, pay two" promotions are one example, while the oversized ready-to-eat meals produced by the food industry are another. Restaurants frequently offer fixed-price buffets that spur customers to heap their plates. Generally speaking, consumers fail to plan their food purchases properly, the report found. That means they often throw food away when "best-before" dates expired. 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. They should also be made aware that given the limited availability of natural resources it is more effective to reduce food losses than increase food production in order to feed a growing world population.
A separate report on food packaging for developing countries also prepared for the Save Food! congress noted that appropriate packaging is a key factor impacting on losses occurring at almost every stage of the food chain.