Reducing food loss and waste would help achieve food security, improve food quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The UN food agency is urging to combat this practice, which is not exclusive to rich countries, as many people think.
Lack of food, hunger and malnutrition affect every country in the world, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) warned on Tuesday, calling urgently for a reduction in the amount of food that goes to waste.
According to FAO data, 931 million tonnes or 17% of the food produced in 2019 ended up in the trash of households, retailers, restaurants and other food actors.
Meanwhile, 811 million people are hungry and 132 million face food and nutrition insecurity today due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In terms of money, the annual food loss is estimated at $400 billion.
The UN agency highlighted these figures on the eve of International Food Loss and Waste Awareness Day on 29 September.
It stressed that food that is not consumed wastes resources such as land, water, energy, soil, seeds and other inputs used for its production.
Seventy percent of the world’s hungry are women. WFP West Africa
Seventy percent of the world’s hungry people are women.
Not just in rich countries
FAO’s Assistant Director for Economic and Social Development told a press conference in Geneva that the problem of food waste is global and not limited to rich nations.
“Food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition affect every country in the world, none is exempt. Some 811 million people suffer from hunger; 2 billion have micronutrient deficiencies, i.e. vitamin and mineral deficiencies; and millions of children suffer from stunting and wasting, deadly forms of malnutrition,” said Nancy Aburto.
She warned that because of their high cost, healthy diets are beyond the reach of the vast majority of people in all regions of the world, including Europe.
She said countries need to adopt innovative tools to reduce waste, citing examples such as new packaging that can extend the shelf life of many foods and smartphone apps that bring consumers and producers closer together, shortening the time between harvest and consumption of food.
More than 900 tonnes of food is thrown away every yearUnsplash/Sanjog Timsina
More than 900 tonnes of food is thrown away every year.
Reducing food loss and waste would improve agri-food systems, help achieve food security and ensure food quality, which would be reflected in nutrition.
It would also contribute “significantly to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and pressure on land and water resources”.
FAO urged accelerated action towards the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 12, which refers to ensuring sustainable consumption and halving global per capita food waste by 2030.
He added that this requires the commitment and involvement of society as a whole: national and local authorities, businesses and individuals, to prioritise action in this direction.
Fruit and vegetables
Three months before the end of the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables, FAO recalled that agricultural products provide nutrition and food security.
“Promoting healthy diets to strengthen our immune system is very appropriate given the health crisis we are currently facing around the world,” said FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu as he launched the year.
He also noted that loss and waste of fruit and vegetables is a problem with considerable consequences and called for the adoption of innovative technologies and approaches to extend the shelf life of fresh produce.
Another recommended measure is to compost food waste instead of sending it to landfills.