UN Reports on Food Waste

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UN Reports on Food Waste

Households worldwide threw away one billion meals every day in 2022, according to a new study by the United Nations.

In the newly published Food Waste Index Report, the UN said households and businesses disposed of more than one trillion dollars’ worth of food.

This is a polarising statistic when considering that it comes at a time when more than 780 million people are going hungry.

The index tracks the progress of countries attempting to halve food waste by 2030.

Tonnes of Waste

The index stated that more than one billion tonnes of food – almost one-fifth of all the produce available on the market – was wasted in 2022, most of it by households.

Inger Andersen, executive director of the UN Environment Programme, said in a statement that food waste is a global tragedy. “Millions will go hungry today as food is wasted across the world.”

Such wastage was not just a moral but “environmental failure”, the report said.

Food loss and waste generate eight to ten per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. If it were a country, it would rank third after China and the United States.

The report said that the “billion meals” daily figure was a “very conservative estimate” and “the real amount could be much higher”.

In 2022, food services like restaurants, canteens, and hotels were responsible for 28 per cent of all wasted food, while retailers like butchers and greengrocers dumped 12 per cent.

But the biggest culprits were households, which accounted for 60 per cent – some 631 million tonnes.

Food Loss

Kalyani Raghunathan, a research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute, told Al Jazeera that global food production far exceeds global food requirements.

“It’s not about net supply and demand – it’s more a question of the distribution of that food,” she said.

She noted that the terms “food loss” and “food waste” are often used interchangeably, but that rates of food loss and waste vary worldwide.

We tend to see that a lot of wastage is concentrated in higher-income countries. We see more food loss in lower-income countries. And that’s the part of the food that gets lost between production and when it arrives to be sold. The food waste part of it, which is from retail up until consumption, which tends to be in higher income countries and particularly at a household level.

Food waste had “devastating effects” on people and the planet, the report said.

Converting natural ecosystems for agriculture is a leading cause of habitat loss yet food waste takes up the equivalent of nearly 30 percent of the world’s farming land, the report said.