From Farm To Fork: How Food Gets Wasted

Enormous quantities of food go to waste every day. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), about one third of global food production (around 30 to 40%), is lost or wasted annually.

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Enormous quantities of food go to waste every day. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), about one third of global food production (around 30 to 40%), is lost or wasted annually.

This loss and wastage of food occurs in both industrialised and developing countries, but for entirely different reasons. In developing countries, food loss boils down to inadequate pre and post harvest techniques and lack of suitable infrastructure which could be reduced with adequate storage, refrigeration and transportation. In developed countries, at retail level, large quantities of food are wasted due to their appearance not deeming them ‘saleable’ as food simply being thrown away at the consumer level - around 18 million tonnes of food ending up in UK landfill sites.

The Government’s Green Food Project has looked at ways in which food wastage can be addressed, yet it is clear that our global food system is still in a state of disrepair. In a 2013 report published by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers in the UK, it was highlighted that up to two billion tonnes of the world’s food goes to waste every year, almost half of the total produced. This figure does not reflect the vast quantities of land, energy, fertilisers and water that have also been lost in the production of food, which simply end up as waste. Around 550bn tonnes of water is wasted on growing crops that will never be eaten. This is a stark contrast to the picture of scarcity and starvation that we know to exist around the globe with an estimated 1 in 8 people going to bed hungry every night.

This Monday 22nd April is Earth Day. The focal point of Earth Day 2013 is ”The Face of Climate Change”. Food waste, from production through disposal, is a significant source of water and fossil fuels consumption. Methane and CO2 emissions from food decomposing in landfills are a significant contributor to global climate change.

The infographic below from Best Foot Forward shows the varying points at which food is lost or wasted in its journey from its harvest fields to our plates. As consumers, through raising our own and other’s awareness regarding food choices and the impact of those choices, as a society we can help in addressing this global issue. By adopting more sustainable consumption patterns and dining with an environmental conscience we can help turn the tide on a system that is largely fueled by collective ignorance.

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