The Global Impact of Food Loss & Waste

July 29, 2022
Food & Bev

Did you know that throwing away one burger wastes the same amount of water as a 90-minute shower? With nearly 1.3 billion tons of food waste and loss globally, it’s hard to imagine the other factors involved such as water consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, labor, transportation costs, storage costs, etc., that impact our economy. As world hunger challenges continue to rise, our annual global food waste numbers are also increasing. In order to combat these numbers, we must first analyze why we are experiencing the increase, where in the food chain waste occurs, and how we can mitigate the problem.

First, let’s define the difference between food waste and food loss. Food loss occurs through the supply chain from production to distribution. Food waste typically refers to the end of the food chain where retail and consumers play a role. Edible food that was never consumed. For example, let’s say we have a crate full of apples being transported overseas. Along the way, the refrigeration unit suddenly stops working and cannot be repaired. By the time the apples arrive to port, they have visibly rotted and are thrown away. This would be considered Food loss. If those same apples made it all the way to the supermarket with no spoilage but were left in the produce section to rot without being purchased, this would be considered food waste.

Shockingly, with 7.7 billion people in the world, there IS enough food on our planet to feed everyone. Why are we losing so much edible food when there are over 828 million starving people in the world? It may seem easy to place the blame on consumers since we are all guilty of throwing away uneaten food. The “your eyes are bigger than your stomach” phrase comes to mind when we think about personal food waste. While consumer food waste is a large portion of the issue, as you can see below, gaps in the supply chain from production to retail also play a big part in the larger picture.


Consumers are much more to blame for food waste and loss in more prominent areas of the world such as Europe, North America, and Industrialized Asia. Developing countries struggle more with loss and waste at the early stages. This is likely because of a lack of proper resources such as storage and cooling facilities, as well as financial and technical constraints. While 40% of losses in developing countries occur at the post-harvest and processing stages, 40% of losses in medium to high-income countries take place at the consumer and retail stages.

So how do we combat the alarming increase in global food waste and loss? Clearly different areas of the world require different measures. In more prominent countries, increasing awareness to retailers and consumers could help shed some light on the expanding issue at hand.

Companies such as Imperfect Foods have made “ugly” fruits and vegetables that would normally be thrown away prior to reaching the consumer, beautiful and accepted as having the same quality as normal ones. Meal kit companies that provide portioned meals will also help in reducing food waste at the consumer level.

For developing countries, the importance of investing in infrastructure, transportation, and packaging is crucial. Without the proper resources, the shelf life is just too short to sustain the quality of perishable foods. The extremely hot climate of places such as Sub-Saharan Africa makes it imperative to strengthen the supply chain and arm workers with the resources needed to maintain the efficacy of their food supply.

Even if just one-fourth of the food currently lost or wasted globally could be saved, it would be enough to feed 870 million hungry people in the world.” With as much global food waste and loss that we experience every year, world hunger should not be an issue, but somehow it is.  Some of us may take for granted the convenience of a whole grocery store full of foods to choose from and others may simply lack access. Regardless, the planet is counting on us to use our resources wisely to be able to take care of each person on this earth. We know it’s possible.

hands holding food

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