Half of all food produced is not eaten

Posted on 10 Jan 2013 by Aiden Burgess

As much as half of all food produced in the world ends up being thrown away, a new report has claimed.

Two billion tonnes worth of food, or 50% of the food produced globally, is put in the bin according to stomach-churning analysis by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE).

The waste is caused by poor infrastructure and storage facilities, overly-strict sell-by dates, “buy-one-get-one-free” offers, and consumer fussiness, according to the membership-based engineering group.

The world produces some four billion tonnes of food each year. But between 30% and 50% of this total, amounting to 1.2 to 2 billion tonnes, is never  eaten, according to Global Food; Waste Not, Want Not.

A shocking statistic that confirms the inefficiency of meat production, according to the IMechE’s report, is that it takes 20-50 times the amount of water to produce one kilogram of meat than one kilogram of vegetables.

It also says in the UK, up to 30% of vegetable crops are not harvested because their physical appearance fails to meet the exacting demands of consumers. Half the food purchased in Europe and the United States is thrown away after it is bought, the report adds.

Water consumption in food production is emphasised as a risk factor. The demand for water in food production could reach up to 13 trillion m3 a year by 2050. This is 2.5 to 3.5 times greater than the total human use of fresh water today and could lead to more dangerous water shortages around the world.

Dr Tim Fox, head of energy and environment at the IMechE, said: “The amount of food wasted and lost around the world is staggering. This is food that could be used to feed the world’s growing population – as well as those in hunger today. It is also an unnecessary waste of the land, water and energy resources that were used in the production, processing and distribution of this food.

He added: “The reasons for this situation range from poor engineering and agricultural practices, inadequate transport and storage infrastructure through to supermarkets demanding cosmetically perfect foodstuffs and encouraging consumers to overbuy through buy-one-get-one free offers.”

By 2075 the UN predicts that the world’s population is set to reach around 9.5 billion, which could mean an extra three billion mouths to feed.