More Than 30 Percent of The World's Food Supply Is Wasted Every Year

By April McCarthy

Loss and wastage occurs on all steps in the food supply chain. In low-income countries, most loss occurs during production, while in developed countries much food -- about 100 kilograms (220 lb) per person and year -- is wasted at the consumption stage. International agencies claim to cater to the world hunger, yet fully one-third of all food produced globally -- a staggering 1.3 billion tons -- is lost or wasted every year, a study by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization found.

The impact of food waste is not just financial. Environmentally, food waste leads to an exaggerated use of chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides; more fuel used for transportation; and more rotting food.


The report determined that overall food loss was divided about equally between the industrialized and developing world, although waste in rich countries was far higher on a per capita level.

Food loss and waste also amount to a major squandering of resources, including water, land, energy, labour and capital.


In industrialized countries, food losses were most often caused by retailers and consumers who threw “perfectly edible foodstuffs” into the trash, the agency said in a statement. By contrast, losses in the developing world were driven primarily by poor infrastructure and low levels of technology in harvesting, processing and distribution.

Thus, a strengthening of the supply chain through the support farmers and investments in infrastructure, transportation, as well as in an expansion of the food -- and packaging industry could help to reduce the amount of food loss and waste.

Limiting such losses in the developing world could have an “immediate and significant” impact on food security, the study’s authors concluded.

In the United States 30% of all food, worth US$48.3 billion, is thrown away each year. It is estimated that about half of the water used to produce this food also goes to waste, since agriculture is the largest human use of water.

The report comes at a time of heightened concern over global food prices, which are at or above levels not seen since the 2008 food crisis, when the soaring cost of basic commodities set off riots across Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

In the last two years, oil prices well over $100 a barrel and crop losses due to extreme weather have driven a benchmark U.N. food price index to record highs, and have sent more than 40 million people into poverty, the World Bank said.

A further 10 percent climb in the index would represent another 10 million people in poverty, the agency said.

United Kingdom households waste an estimated 6.7 million tonnes of food every year, around one third of the 21.7 million tonnes purchased. This means that approximately 32% of all food purchased per year is not eaten. Most of this (5.9 million tonnes or 88%) is currently collected by local authorities. Most of the food waste (4.1 million tonnes or 61%) is avoidable and could have been eaten had it been better managed,

The F.A.O. report, which was produced by the Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology, found opportunities to reduce food waste in the developing world all along the chain of production. Improved harvest techniques, farmer education and better storage and cooling facilities could all make a substantial difference, it concluded.

Nevertheless, the researchers found that little effort was being made to study the problem or develop solutions.

“Further research in the area is urgent, especially considering that food security is a major concern in large parts of the developing world,” they wrote.

The difference in food security between developing nations and those developed lies in the magnitude of the problem in terms of its severity and proportion of the population affected. In developed nations the problem is alleviated by providing targeted food security interventions, including food aid in the form of direct food relief, food stamps, or indirectly through subsidized food production.

Similar approaches are employed in developing countries but with much less success. The discrepancy in the results is largely due to corruption and an insufficient resource base, shorter duration of intervention.

Moreover, unstable social and political environments that preclude sustainable economic growth, war and civil strive, macroeconomic imbalances in trade, natural resource constraints, poor human resource base, gender inequality, inadequate education, and the absence of good governance at the mercy of greed and power hungry governments all contribute to either insufficient national food availability or insufficient access to food by households and individuals all over the world.

Fruit Waste Valuable And Affordable Source of Antioxidants

Processing of fruits produces and vegetables produces two types of waste - a solid waste of peel/skin, seeds and a liquid waste of juice and washwaters. These waste by-products could be utilized as a good source of affordable antioxidants for advancing human health and preventing some chronic diseases.

In some fruits the discarded portion can be very high (eg mango 30-50%, banana 20%, pineapple 40-50% and orange 30-50%). Therefore, there is often a serious waste disposal problem, which can lead to problems with flies and rats around the processing room, if not correctly dealt with.

Rather than benefiting households, children, the sick and the needy by way of an easily available and reasonably priced tasty nutritional supplement, and giving the growers a remunerative income, much of the highly perishable farm produce rapidly loses value as it ripens and starts deteriorating. The value of this wastage is astonishing. Worse, the pile up of the putrefying mass at assorted places becomes a breeding ground for disease and pests, and poses a major challenge to the municipal authorities charged with keeping the civic areas clean.

Up to 90 percent of waste thrown out by businesses like supermarkets and restaurants is food scraps. In fact, food scraps are the third largest segment of the waste stream with nearly 26 million tons generated each year. Of the overall wastestream, about 12% is food-related, behind paper and plastic.

The six main products that can be considered are from the waste are candied peel, oils, pectin, reformed fruit and vegetable pieces, enzymes, wine/vinegar.

A study, published in the Journal of Food Science, measured the total polyphenol contents and antioxidant activities of extractable polyphenols (EPPs) and non-extractable polyphenols (NEPPs) isolated from freeze-dried apple waste, and investigated their potential anti-cancer effects.

Agricultural by-products in general contain a variety of biologically active compounds that are mostly going to waste.

For instance, apple peels represent up to 10% of the whole apple fruit. However, these antioxidant-rich fruit tissues are often discarded during processing, packaging, and canning.

Estimates suggest that that fruits processing generates solid waste as high as 50% of raw material, consisting of peel, core, pomace, unripe fruits, cull fruits, and mechanically damaged fruits.

April McCarthy is a community journalist playing an active role reporting and analyzing world events to advance our health and eco-friendly initiatives.

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