Food Waste and Food Loss: What Do They Actually Mean?

2021-12-22 13:30:38

“Cutting food waste is a delicious way of saving money, helping to feed the world and protect the planet” ~ Tristram Stuart.

You can not agree more with this quote, can you?

There are 41.9% of the world’s population who cannot afford a healthy diet. But here are some statistics that can make you think before discarding your food. As per FAO, 14% of the world’s total food production is lost. And according to the UN report, 17% of total food production is wasted globally every year! 

But the most crucial part that needs your attention is the adverse effects of these issues on our environment. When food gets dumped into the landfills, it releases methane as it undergoes the rotting process. This greenhouse gas is 28 times more dangerous than carbon dioxide and remains in the atmosphere for about 12 years, contributing to climate change. 

That’s not all. When food is wasted or lost, all the resources used to prepare food, such as water, energy, land, labor, and capital, also go to waste. Additionally, food waste and loss can affect food availability, costs, and the hunger rate.

About 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted globally every year. But it is lost or wasted in various ways across the food supply chain. And that’s why it becomes important to know what exactly food waste and food loss are.

So, let’s dive in.

A Brief on Food Loss 

Food loss refers to the food products that are spoilt or damaged in the initial stages of the food supply chain (post-harvest, processing, and distribution stages).

According to FAO, it refers to the decrease in the quantity or quality of food along the food supply chain from slaughter/harvest/catch, but excluding retail level. Also, these lost food products do not enter other utilization streams, such as animal feed or seed.

Do you know why food loss takes place? It is because of:

  • Extreme weather conditions
  • Poor harvesting of agricultural produce
  • Use of outdated machinery and technology
  • Animal death during breeding
  • Spillage and spoilage 
  • Improper transport facilities, and 
  • Lack of reliable and consistent cold storage systems

Hence most of the food is lost to drought, floods, bug infestation, diseases, and lack of access to markets mostly in poor and developing countries.  

But is there any way to solve this global concern?

Yes, there are.

The following are the few strategies that can be implemented to reduce food loss:

  • Harvesting food products at the appropriate stage of maturity
  • Ensuring the safety of water used in the agricultural processes
  • Avoiding injury and bruises during post-harvest handling, and
  • Introducing proper storage and transportation systems.

A Brief on Food Waste

Food waste, undoubtedly, is one of the major global problems; but what exactly is food waste?

As per FAO, food waste is the decrease in the quality or quantity of food resulting from the actions and decisions of food service providers, retailers, and consumers.

In various scenarios, food is discarded, such as:

  • Fresh foods, when fail to match the optimal conditions concerning color, size, and shape
  • Foods when reaching closer to their best-before date, and 
  • The unused or leftover whole edible foods from the eating establishments and households. 

But the good news is, you can reduce food waste using the following solutions:

  • Preparing the shopping list and sticking to it
  • Considering the shelf life of products while purchasing in bulk amount
  • Buying fresh foods with physical imperfections (not injured and rotten) that are nutritious and safe
  • Use of preservative techniques such as edible films and coatings 
  • Asking for smaller portions at restaurants to prevent plate waste and ensuring to carry leftovers with a takeaway box
  • Storage of food items at the required temperature

As we become aware of food waste and loss and try to minimize them, we would efficiently use water and land. Also, this change would result positively in people’s livelihoods and in our climate.

So, are you ready to do your bit of reducing food waste and loss?



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