Food loss and food wastage have both been a continual problem that we’ve inherited and passed on in our food systems. According to United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) an estimated 1.3 billion tons of food gets wasted and/or lost on a global scale. Said amount of produce and/or edible byproducts is cultivated and harvested using valuable resources such as water—at least 250km3 of it which is roughly three times the volume of Lake Geneva (yes that is a lot of water).
A recent study conducted by the FAO indicated that upstream processes such as harvesting, processing, and production from the producers and manufacturers accounted for 54 percent of global food wastage whereas downstream processes such as storage, handling, and distribution accounted for 46 percent of wastage on a global scale. The inconvenient truth is that both sides of the spectrum can be easily avoided by considering the following measures: public education, forecasting tools, and responsibly recycling organic byproducts.
Education. Education begins with not just the consumers but the producers and manufacturers as well. More often than not, the verbiage on food packaging gets misinterpreted. Take expiration dates for example. Buying decisions get better when there is a better understanding of “use by” and “best before” dates. Regulatory bodies can be a significant part of positive change by addressing this to both the manufacturers and consumers within the food system. A good example of this is France’s 2016 initiative to curb food wastage in supermarkets and groceries by having them donate quality unsold food products to charities and food banks instead of disposing of them.
Forecasting. Data analysis plays a significant role in forecasting based on the market’s demand and supply rates. Enhanced traceability systems have been designed to support food safety and quality management systems. Using this framework, food waste management can be carried out on an ingredient level using effective scaling and recipe development tools. This also takes into account the average portion sizes of consumers, who for the most part have grown used to the idea of “surplus servings.”
Recycle responsibly. Most linear food processes end with discarding raw materials that cannot be recycled for human consumption. Another area to consider where applicable is converting the discarded raw materials or food end-products to animal feed, biofuels, or even biofertilizers. Many components of organic byproducts and/or co-products can be recycled responsibly, thereby reducing our carbon footprint as well as enhancing food sustainability.