UP TO A staggering two billion tonnes of all food produced ends up as waste.
A new report, entitled Global Food; waste not, want not, published by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers has found that as much as 50% of all food produced around the world never reaches a human stomach.
The study found that a number of factors are to blame, including inadequate infrastructure and storage facilities, overly strict sell-by dates, buy-one-get-one free offers and consumers demanding cosmetically perfect food.
With UN predictions that there could be about an extra three billion people to feed by the end of the century and an increasing pressure on the resources needed to produce food, including land, water and energy, the Institution is calling for urgent action to tackle this waste.
The amount of food wasted and lost around the world is staggering, said Tim Fox, head of energy and environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. This is food that could be used to feed the worlds growing population as well as those in hunger today. It is also an unnecessary waste of the land, water and energy resources that were used in the production, processing and distribution of this food.
Fox said engineers had a crucial role to play through development of more efficient ways of growing, transporting and storing foods. But in order for this to happen Governments, development agencies and organisation like the UN must work together to help change peoples mindsets on waste and discourage wasteful practices by farmers, food producers, supermarkets and consumers.
The report found that:
- Between 30% and 50% or 1.2-2 billion tonnes of food produced around the world each year never reaches a human stomach;
- As much as 30% of UK vegetable crops are not harvested due to them failing to meet exacting standards based on their physical appearance, while up to half of the food thats bought in Europe and the USA is thrown away by the consumer;
- About 550 billion m3 of water is wasted globally in growing crops that never reach the consumer;
- It takes 20-50 times the amount of water to produce 1 kilogram of meat than 1 kilogram of vegetables;
- The demand for water in food production could reach 1013 trillion m3 a year by 2050. This is 2.5 to 3.5 times greater than the total human use of fresh water today and could lead to more dangerous water shortages around the world;
- There is the potential to provide 60-100% more food by eliminating losses and waste while at the same time freeing up land, energy and water resources.