Throughout the food chain (from the producer to the consumer), a large amount of food destined for human consumption is wasted. According to a FAO study on food waste, each year the amount of food wasted is about a third of that produced.
This phenomenon has important repercussions because producing food requires efforts, resources and investments, with both an economic and environmental impact.
The food supply chain uses water and phytopharmaceutical resources in addition to various types of energy sources (for agricultural machinery, transport, conservation and distribution). Reducing waste therefore means improving the efficiency of production and reducing the exploitation of natural resources, which is why we need to know better.
When we talk about food waste, we refer to 2 complementary concepts: food loss and food waste. What do these expressions mean?
Overall, the industrialised countries are undoubtedly the ones that waste the most food, but the percentage of waste exceeds that of the developing countries only by a small margin. This phenomenon is explained by the fact that food waste can occur at various stages of the supply chain:
In developing countries, the causes of food waste are mainly related to limitations in terms of business and technical management of food collection, storage and transport, as well as issues relating to infrastructure and packaging.
However, in the most industrialised countries, these are mainly linked to a lack of coordination between the different operators involved in the supply chain, as well as consumer behaviour. Meeting certain quality standards may, for example, lead to certain products being discarded because of their shape or appearance. Furthermore, a large amount of food is wasted due to lack of planning by buyers. This may lead to the expiration of various products before they are consumed.
In order to reduce food waste and improve resource efficiency, there are a number of solutions that can be applied.
In developing countries in particular, investments are needed to strengthen infrastructure and transport, while producers need to be involved to improve harvesting, storage and packaging solutions.
In industrialised countries, on the other hand, it is necessary to involve distribution, retail and consumers to develop strategies to find a balance between the amount of food produced and what is really needed. This also includes training consumers for a conscious and sustainable attitude towards food.
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