The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has published a report on Global food losses and food waste. A wonderful insight into the other side of hunger. I’ll give you a short overview:
Do you need your carrots to be perfect? “In total, 25-30% of all carrots handled by M.H. Poskitt Carrots were out-graded. About half of these were rejected due to physical or aesthetic defects, such as being the wrong shape or size; being broken or having a cleft or a blemish.” It’s exactly those high standards for the looks of food which are part of the huge food waste problem we have today in the world.
Baby carrots, how cute! In the western world we trim our food into nice shapes. What is left of this trimming is thrown away, which is cheaper than using it elsewhere. I am sure you can think of another, even more famous example: French Fries. Imagine now that something goes wrong and the baby carrots or French fries come out a bit bigger. Yes, you guessed it right, off the go into the bin. ‘Disposing is cheaper than using or re-using’ attitude in industrialized countries leads to food waste.
Do not eat Spanish Cucumber, we better destroy them all. Ok, this time carrots are left out but remember the tons and tons of tomatoes, cucumbers and salads which went to waste due to the recent E-coli problem in Germany and surrouding countries. The problem here is that unsafe food is not fit for human consumption and therefore is wasted.
Don’t you have those yellow carrots? We know exactly what we want and NO, not everyone wants the same, let’s say carrots. This makes it hard for shops who have to offer a wide range of products to satisfy us. Oh, of course we get angry if our product is sold out. And we would never buy the products who’s expiration date is soon. You know, I know what is happening to them: BIN! Large quantities on display and a wide range of products/ brands in supply lead to food waste in industrialized countries.
Let’s take two bags of Carrots, just to be sure. And then we will never eat them. But you know what, that’s a problem only we have: Food wasted at consumer level is minimal in developing countries. It’s because they do not buy overly large quantities and limited household income make it inacceptable to waste food. Abundance and consumer attitudes lead to high food waste in industrialized countries. And the problem is that we do it just because we can (afford it).
In order not to bore you with more carrot stories, here are some other causes of food waste:
In low-income countries:
- Poor storage facilities and lack of infrastructure cause postharvest food losses
- Food may be lost due to premature harvesting. (but you can imagine that this does not happen voluntarily. Rather it is an act of despair).
- Lack of processing facilities causes high food losses. (Processing often means having better options for storing the food.)
- Inadequate market systems cause high food losses in developing countries.
In high-income countries:
- In industrialized countries food gets lost when production exceeds demand. (I’ll only say one word: subsidies…)
More on the topic? Here!
Picture courtesy by Joost J. Bakker, thanks you!