Controlling the loss and waste of food is a crucial factor in reaching the goal of eradicating hunger in the world. Credit: FAO
October 17, 2022
MADRID, Sep 28 2022 (IPS)* – These are facts, not guesses: about 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted and lost … every single year, the equivalent of one ton per each of the one billion hungry people, many of them are those who produced the food.
On this, it reports on the breakdown of the number of calories wasted per day and per person – out of the recommended 2.000: 1.520 calories in rich North America and Oceania of which 61% are by their consumers – and 748 wasted calories in wealthy Europe.
With a much bigger population than Europe, a similar amount of calories is reported as wasted in industrialised Asia (746), compared to 414 in South and Southeast Asia.
Subsaharan Africa and Central Asia register 545 wasted calories per person and day, and Latin America 453, according to the World Bank’s report.
For its part, the United Nations, on the occasion of this year’s International Day of Awareness on Food Loss and Waste Reduction, on 29 September, reports that reducing food losses and waste is essential in a world where the number of people affected by hunger has been slowly on the rise since 2014, and tons and tons of edible food are lost and/or wasted … every day.
How is the food of the hungry being wasted?
Two main reasons lay behind such food waste and loss. One of them is attributed to inadequate transport and storage facilities in developing countries.
But the major one is the rules imposed by the markets.
Indeed, the dominating marketing, the profit-making technique consists of selecting part of the crops while discarding great amounts of food, just because they are “ugly,” “not nice” in the eyes of the consumers.
This way, millions of tons of potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, lemons, apples, pears, peaches, grapes… are every day left in the field or thrown in landfills, while millions of litres of milk and millions of eggs are dumped in the sea just to reduce their availability in the supermarkets, therefore raising their prices, and this way make more money.
Another market rule is to attract consumers with “special” offers, such as “buy one, take two” or more, while advertising their products as natural,” biological, grown in the field, etc. Other foods are presented as gluten and lactose-free; zero added sugar, more Omegas, more healthy… and cheaper.
Add that they fix tight “expiration date” and this way, pushing consumers to dump the extra amount of food they are induced to purchase just to take advantage of such “special” offers.
- Significant quantities are wasted in retail and at the consumption level, with around 14% of food produced is lost between harvest and retail.
- An estimated 17% of total global food production is wasted: 11% in households, 5% in the food service, and 2% in retail.
- Food that is lost and wasted accounts for 38% of total energy usage in the global food system.
Not only the food is wasted…
The International Day meanwhile reiterates that food loss and waste undermine the sustainability of the world’s food systems.
“When food is lost or wasted, all the resources that were used to produce this food – including water, land, energy, labour and capital – go to waste.”
In addition, the disposal of food loss and waste in landfills, leads to greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to climate change.
Food loss and waste can also negatively impact food security and food availability, and contribute to increasing the cost of food.
The world specialised body: the Food and Agriculture Oranization (FAO), reports these facts:
- Currently, 41.9% of the global population is unable to afford a healthy diet. That’s over 3 billion people.
- An additional 1 billion people around the world are at risk of not affording a healthy diet if a shock caused their incomes to reduce by one-third. What if there was a disaster or an economic shock?
- Furthermore, food costs could increase for up to 845 million people if a disruption to critical transport links were to occur.
In its report, FAO recalls that as the world’s population continues to grow, “the challenge should not be how to grow more food; but reducing food loss and waste” in a sustainable manner, is an immediate need if we are to maximise the use of food produced to feed and nourish more people.
Also, prioritising the reduction of food loss and waste is critical for the transition to sustainable food systems that enhance the efficient use of natural resources, lessen planetary impacts and ensure food security and nutrition.
And that reducing food waste is one of the most impactful climate solutions.
Having reported all that, who would dare to tell the one billion poor why they and their children go to bed hungry or undernourished, every single day, while the big business pundits are dressed in silky clothes, sitting in luxury offices, cashing skyrocketing salaries, and eating exquisitely selected food?
About the author
Baher Kamal is Senior Advisor to IPS Director General on Africa & the Middle East. He is an Egyptian-born, Spanish-national, secular journalist, with over 43 years of experience. Since the late 70s, he specialised in all development-related issues, as well as international politics. He also worked as Senior Information Expert for the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership at the European Commission in Brussels, and as the first-ever Information Officer and Spokesperson at UNEP’s Mediterranean Action Plan in Athens. Kamal speaks Spanish, Arabic, English and Italian.
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