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Report highlights radical change needed to tackle avoidable food waste

19 September 2013

  • Identification of key challenges and research priorities to reduce food waste and losses across the whole supply chain
  • Evidence shows household consumption trends are not sustainable:
    • On average, households amass over 5kg total food waste weekly with nearly two thirds being avoidable waste
    • Average annual cost of food waste at home is £480 per household and £680 per family

A report commissioned by the UK’s Global Food Security (GFS) programme has outlined the vital priorities for future research to address the growing problem of food waste.

‘Food Waste within Global Systems’  highlights research priorities that will help to decrease food waste and losses across the supply chain, from food production through to food processing, retail and consumption.

The report indicates that tackling waste is a major part of providing enough food to feed a growing population sustainably in the future.

Professor Tim Benton, Global Food Security Champion, said: “Over five million people in the UK live in deep poverty, where basic food provision is a daily challenge. Nearly 400,000 people needed support from foodbanks last year according to the Trussel Trust. At the same time, 15 million tonnes of food is wasted annually, with nearly half discarded within UK households. Reducing the scale of losses and waste throughout the entire food system is a crucial step towards improving global food security.”

This report provides an independent assessment of the issues around food waste and losses in developing and developed countries and suggests a number of potential future research priorities across the food supply chain and at home.

Professor Benton added: “New approaches and new research will be instrumental in reducing waste, such as smarter packaging for retailers, improved understanding of consumer behaviour, and better weather prediction that will reduce waste at harvest. This report will enable research funders to identify the key challenges that need to be met to reduce food waste.”

Research priorities highlighted include: agile automated harvesting technologies; packaging technologies; good seasonal weather prediction; anti-bacterial surfaces; domestic food management practices; changing consumer perceptions; new ways to reduce waste within the home; biological pathways of maturation and ripening; microbial spoilage; economic analysis of supply-chains.

The report is underpinned by an extensive literature review which unearthed some compelling food waste statistics:

  • Retailer standards can reject up to 40% of edible produce, which may never reach market (e.g. size, shape and blemish criteria of fruit and vegetables)
  • Product grading standards can result in rejected goods affecting up to 40% of total yields, and in the absence of alternative markets, sub-standard but still edible produce is redirected as animal feed or simply ploughed back into the ground
  • On average, households amass over 5kg total food waste weekly with nearly two thirds being avoidable waste
  • Nearly three quarters of food waste occurs at the consumer stage; with two thirds of this being ‘avoidable’ waste, equalling a £11.8bn economic loss, at an average annual cost of £480 per household and £680 per family

To see the report in full, visit: www.foodsecuirty.ac.uk/assets/pdfs/food-waste-report.pdf

ENDS

Notes to editors

The UK’s main public funders of food-related research are working together through the Global Food Security (GFS) programme to meet the challenge of providing the world’s growing population with a sustainable, secure supply of nutritious food from less land and using fewer inputs.

This report was commissioned by the GFS programme to better understand the issues surrounding food waste in developing and developed countries, with a particular focus on understanding where new approaches and new research may be instrumental in reducing waste. The report is an independent assessment of the state of knowledge of the food waste area, and is aimed at all stakeholders involved in the programme. The findings of this research are to guide future research funding priorities, but do not represent the policy position of GFS partners. This report is underpinned by an extensive literature review, analysis of a survey circulated to a number of interested parties within the food system and over 40 consultations with GFS partner organisations and external stakeholders.

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