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Food Waste


Food Waste


In the food supply chain the amount of waste is staggering. In the world, it is estimated that one-third of the food produced for human consumption is lost, which works out to about 1.3 billion tons, or one third of all food that is produced. It would be perceived that the developed world would waste far more food than developing nations, but that is not the case. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that the developed world wastes 670 million tons per year, while developing nations waste close to 630 million tons. Obviously developed nations are better at storing and distributing food along the supply chain, and the waste occurs with the retailer and consumer. Developing nations have issues with post-harvest storage, transportation, and poor processing that leads to much of the spoilage occurring before it ever reaches the consumer.

Types of Food Waste

The FAO identifies five types of food waste. These are :

  • Agricultural Production - This includes food waste due to mechanical damage or spillage during harvest operation, and damage to crops during sorting.
  • Post-Harvest Handling and Storage - This consists of losses due to damage during handling, storage, and transportation between the primary farm and distribution center.
  • Processing - This comprises of food waste due to damage during industrial processing, such as line production, and canning. Waste may occur when items are sorted out if not suitable to process, due to consumer requirements, or during the manufacturing process.
  • Distribution - This includes all food waste that occurs during the retailing process.
  • Consumption - This is the waste that occurs at the consumer level, i.e. rejection due expiry dates or normal wastage.

The Extent of Food Waste

Approximately one-third of the edible food produced for human consumption, gets wasted globally, which is about 1.3 billion ton per year. In developed nations, food waste is mainly due to the actions of the consumer where it is discarded even if it is still suitable for human consumption. Nevertheless, there is still significant waste that occurs early in the food supply chain. In developing nations, food is mainly lost during the early and middle stages of the food supply chain so much less food is wasted at the consumer level.

  • Cereal Crops - In developed nations wheat is the dominant crop and the majority of the food waste, some 40 to 50 percent, occurs due to the consumer. In developing nations, rice is the dominant crop, and food waste occurs mainly at agricultural production and post-harvest handling and storage.
  • Root Vegetables - The potato is the dominating crop in developed nations and food waste occurs both at the agricultural level and consumer level. Losses in agriculture are due to post-harvest crop grading, due to quality standards set by retailers. In developing nations, the potato and cassava are popular root vegetables. A lot of food waste occurs at during the harvest and post-harvest activities. Root vegetables are easily damaged during the harvest, in storage and during transportation, especially in warm and humid climates.
  • Fruits and Vegetables - In developed nations consumers waste up to 30 percent of all fruits. However, quality standards set by retailers are a major reason for losses at harvest and in the sorting process. In developing nations, the losses during harvest and post harvest storage are due to the deterioration of perishable crops in warm and humid climates.
  • Meat Products - The major cause of waste of meat products in developed nations is by the retailer and the consumer. This makes up approximately half of total meat losses and waste. In developing nations, the losses are not in any one area. There are losses due to animal diseases at the farm, as well as spoilage during transportation and storage.
  • Fish Products - There is a high percentage of food waste at both ends of the supply chain in developed nations. There is a 15 percent loss due to discard rates during the catch, as well as a similar level by consumers. In developing nations, the main problem is spoilage during transportation. Inadequate refrigeration during distribution leads to a high food loss.
  • Dairy ProductsThis food type has a high level of consumer wastage in the developed world. Almost 60 percent of all waste is caused by the consumer. In developing nations, there are high losses at the farm and in distribution due to inadequate refrigeration.

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