10 food waste facts you need to know

WED is a day to remember that the Earth’s natural resources are finite and to celebrate positive environmental acts that conserve those resources. Food waste, which accounts for one-third of all food produced worldwide, is a major area where the Earth’s resources could be better utilized. The Milan Protocol, according to the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition (BCFN), aims to minimize food waste by 50% by 2020.

“Climate change…will contribute to rising global food costs within a range of 3-84 percent by 2050, posing a severe danger to food production and security,” says Riccardo Valentini, a professor at the Università della Tuscia and a member of the BCFN Advisory Board. Currently, over 800 million people worldwide suffer from severe malnutrition, with 36 million dying as a result of their lack of food. As a result, the greatest task for the future years will be to successfully address the issue of food access.”

“Food waste has a detrimental influence on the environment, the economy, food security, and nutrition,” says Ludovica Principato, a BCFN Foundation researcher and a Ph.D candidate in Management at Rome’s La Sapienza University.

In order to prevent waste, BCFN promotes intervention throughout the entire food supply chain, from farmers to processing, and from distribution businesses to the final user. Losses occur before food is purchased owing to inappropriate handling, quality deterioration during transportation, and insufficient cooling and storage infrastructure. Fruit and vegetable losses are estimated to be 2-20 percent in developed countries and 24-40 percent in impoverished countries during this stage. High levels of waste result in higher final product pricing, which may lead to decreased consumption of fruits and vegetables.

Shipments of edible food that do not match appearance or size specifications are also rejected at the retail level. According to a 2011 survey, 20 percent of original food production in North America, Europe, Oceania, and Latin America is lost due to items failing to meet grading requirements. Fortunately, supermarkets around the world are modifying their rules to accept ‘ugly’ fruits and vegetables, reducing food waste.

Another important issue in the developed world is household food waste. During domestic preparation, consumers in high-income nations discard up to 30% of fruit and vegetable purchases and trim products up to 33% by weight. Furthermore, food packaging waste is unlikely to be recycled at home, as it has been the least affected by the four-fold rise in recycling since 1990.

Food waste can become a vital input to end nutrient cycles by understanding how to reuse leftover food to nourish humans and animals, as well as produce energy and compost. Join Food Tank and BCFN on WED 2015 in putting an end to food waste around the world to conserve the Earth’s natural resources from farm to fork.

Here are ten food waste facts you may not be aware of:


  • Every year, 1.1.3 billion tons of food are thrown away.


  • This equates to a one-trillion-dollar waste or loss of food.
  • If wasted food were a country, it would be the world’s third-largest carbon dioxide emitter, trailing only the United States and China.


  • Just a fourth of all wasted food could feed the world’s 795 million malnourished people.


  • Food waste in developed countries (222 million tons) is roughly equal to the whole amount of food produced in Sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tons)


  • A consumer in Europe or North America wastes over 100 kilograms of food every year, which is greater than his or her body weight (70 kilograms)


  • A typical European or North American consumer wastes 15 times the amount of food as an average African customer.

  • Food waste in Africa is primarily due to a lack of technology and infrastructure, as compared to domestic food waste in the industrialized world.


  • In Europe alone, food waste could feed 200 million needy people.


  • Food waste releases 3.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, hastening global warming.
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