One third of world's food is wasted, says UN study

Rotting food Consumers in rich countries waste as much food as sub-Saharan Africa produces

Related Stories

About one third of all food produced for human consumption goes to waste, according to a study commissioned by the United Nations food agency.

That amounts to more than one billion tonnes of waste around the world every year.

The study recommends that developing countries should improve production and distribution, so as to stop losing so much food.

It also says industrialised countries must stop throwing so much away.

Loss versus waste

The UN study, by the Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology, was aimed at an international trade fair for the food packaging industry, to be held in Germany later this month.

Among the key findings are that consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food, 222 million tonnes, as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa.

Unsurprisingly, the researchers found that fruit and vegetables - including roots and tubers - go to waste more than other types of food.

But the report, entitled Global Food Losses and Food Waste, has a different analysis of the problem for different types of economy.

Food facts

Every year:

  • Industrialised countries waste 670 million tonnes
  • Developing countries lose 630 million tonnes
  • Total lost or wasted globally: 2.3 billion tonnes

Source: Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology

Commissioned by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), it distinguishes between food loss and food waste.

Losses happen during the production, processing and distribution of food. They affect developing countries worst. The answer is to improve technology and infrastructure, the study says.

Food waste is the big issue in industrialised countries. It is mainly due to retailers and consumers throwing perfectly edible food into the bin.

Waste amounts to around 100kg (more than 200lb) per consumer in Europe and North America every year.

Consumers in sub-Saharan Africa and most of Asia each throw away just 6-11kg.

At retail level, large quantities of fresh food is wasted because of the way it looks. The Swedish researchers reviewed surveys showing that consumers were willing to buy produce that looks imperfect, as long as it is safe and tastes good.

Customers have the power to influence quality standards and should do so, the report says.

And it criticises "buy one, get one free" promotions for their tendency to lead to waste.

Food loss and waste are also a major squandering of resources - water, land, energy and labour - and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Europe stories

RSS

Features

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.