According to estimates by the FAO (2011), 1.3 billion tons of food are lost between field and plate, which is equivalent to one third of all food and one quarter of the kilocalories produced. Losses and wastage in developed countries averaged around $ 680 billion annually and $ 310 billion in developing countries.
Food losses and waste contribute to the overuse of natural resources, water, land, energy, labor and capital. 1.4 billion hectares of land - 28% of the world's agricultural area - is used annually to produce food that is not consumed. This produces greenhouse gas emissions amounting to around 2.7 Gt of CO2 equivalent per year.
Quantitative world-wide losses and waste are estimated to be around 30% for cereals, 40-50% for roots and tubers, fruits and vegetables, 35% for fish, 20% for oilseeds, meat and dairy products.
In 2014, the High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE) presented its report on Food losses and waste in the context of sustainable food systems to the Committee on Food Security during its 41st session. The HLPE in its report adopts a food security and nutrition lens and defines food losses and waste (FLW) as “a decrease, at all stages of the food chain from harvest to consumption, in mass, of food that was originally intended for human consumption, regardless of the cause”. For the purpose of terminology, the report makes the distinction between food losses, occurring before consumption level regardless of the cause, and food waste, occurring at consumption level regardless of the cause.
This refers to losses of food intended for human consumption that is not consumed arising along the entire value chain (from harvest to consumption). Excluded are plant and animal products that are not used for human consumption or that are transferred into other value chains (such as animal nutrition). A distinction is made between quantitative FLW (volume reduction in kg) and qualitative FLW (reduction of nutrient content, economic value, food safety). The definition adopted by the HLPE makes a conscious distinction between losses before the time of harvest, which might occur due to pest and diseases, unfavourable weather conditions, like drought, storms and flood, insufficient crop management practices or even poor input quality, and losses that occur at harvest and after harvest during transportation, processing, distribution until the seller / consumer stage in the food chains.
According to FAO, in developing countries about 40% of total loss from seed to consumer occurs during the production stage in the field. Another 40% are food losses (totaling 630 million tons) and occur mainly in the early stages of the value chain. They may be caused by financial, operational and technical limitations in harvesting techniques, storage and refrigeration equipment, and processing. Direct support to farmers (for example through advice on storage) and investment in infrastructure can reduce the amount of losses. In industrialized nations, again roughly 40% are losses along the value chain from harvest to consumer and 40% are food wastes (670 million tons) which occur in the last stages of the value chain and are caused by retailers and consumers. Consumer behavior therefore contributes significantly to waste in industrialized countries.
Waste per capita in Europe and North America amounts to 95-115 kg per year, while it is 6-11 kg in sub-Saharan Africa, South and Southeast Asia.Only a small proportion of food waste is composted: a significantly larger amount ends up in landfills, causing methane emissions, which represent by far the largest source of greenhouse gases in waste management. An in-house composting could, theoretically, annually absorb around 150 kg of food waste per household and thus relieve local collecting authorities.
Potentials & need for action
The current situation requires urgent action for the reduction in food losses and waste and serious efforts to reduce field losses during agricultural production, especially in developing countries. Often there is a lack of coordination and agreements between producers and consumers. Good agricultural practice (improved and cost-effective production and harvesting techniques), low-loss storage, infrastructure investment, improved processing, packaging and efficient distribution can help to reduce food losses. Optimizing processes and cooperation can already help to go a long way to reduce food losses and waste. To achieve this, a reasonably accurate identification of loss hotspots along the food chains is important. Often, however, losses are accepted because the alternative is not economically practical or sufficiently attractive.
Simplified food labeling and alternative distribution channels can help to ensure that edible food is not disposed of unnecessarily. Overall, awareness should be given to production, industry, retailers and consumers in order to secure an alternative use for food that is currently being thrown away.
The SDG 12 for Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns obliges countries to take action against food loss and waste:
- 12.3 By 2030, global food waste per capita at the retail and consumer level is set to halve and food losses along the production and supply chain, including post-harvest losses are reduced
- 12.5 By 2030, the volume of waste should be significantly reduced through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse.
The G20 Technical Platform on the Measurement and Reduction of Food Loss and Waste is composed of international organizations, bilateral institutions and the private sector and was created to globally coordinate the measurement of food losses and waste. In addition, it is supposed to promote the development of policies to reduce food losses. The launch of the platform responds to the mandate of the G20 agriculture ministers' meeting in Istanbul in May 2015.The secretariat of the platform is hosted by FAO.
The "Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard" was published in 2016 and enables companies and other stakeholders, like local , regional or national governments to measure food losses and waste in their sphere of influence, to identify problem areas and decide on action to significantly reduce FLW.
The Global Food Loss Index is intended to serve as a tool to track progress on SDG 12.3: "halving per capita food waste among consumers and reducing food losses". The methodology, led by the FAO, is being developed by the Global Strategy to Improve Agricultural and Rural Statistics (GSARS), and reviewed by the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goal Indicators (IAEG).
The index is based on modeling and works with nationally collected data from the member states of the FAO. To ensure comparability, the Global Food Loss Index (GFLI) and the Food Loss Index (FLI) should be documented and presented in a comparable manner. The FLI (synthetic fixed-base index) analyzes at a national level percentage losses from 10 key food items. These are then weighted in dollars according to their international production value. Since the same foods are not relevant for each country, individual "product baskets" may vary slightly from country to country, but will include certain food groups (cereals, root and tuber crops, vegetables, animal products, fruits, legumes, oilseeds, meat products , Fish products) Ideally the GFLI may then be calculated from the various FLIs. FAO has not yet completed its work on the GLFI.
- ↑ FAO, 2011. Global Food Losses and Food Waste. Extent, Causes and Prevention.
- ↑ HLPE, 2014. Food losses and waste in the context of sustainable food systems. A report by the High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition of the Committee on World Food Security, Rome 2014.
- ↑ FAO (2011) ‘Global Food Losses and Food Waste. Rome, Italy.
- ↑ FAO (2016): Key facts on food loss and waste you should know! Online 25.10.2016
- ↑ DQS-CFS (2016): Lebensmittelverschwendung vermeiden: Der neue Food Loss and Waste Standard