Addressing food waste in the United States
Solutions are needed along the entire food chain to reduce food lost and wasted.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that nearly one-third of the edible components of food produced for human consumption gets lost or wasted, amounting to about 1.3 billion tons per year globally. If a quarter of this food could be saved, it would feed 870 million of the billion people around the world that go hungry every day.
In the United States 30%-40% of the food supply is wasted annually. This happens at each point along the food supply chain, from the agricultural production to the final household consumption. In medium- and high-income countries, like the US, food waste occurs mostly towards the end of the food supply chain, meaning that it is thrown away even if it is still suitable for human consumption. Despite the colossal amount of wasted food, there is still a need to grow food production by 70% globally before 2050 in order to meet demand as the global population is projected to reach 9.1 billion.
While expanding primary food production is paramount to meet future increased demand, reducing food losses can go a long way in alleviating supply pressures. Efficient solutions exist along the entire food chain to reduce total amounts of food lost and wasted. Actions should not only be directed towards isolated sections of the chain, as adjustments to individual parts can affect prior or subsequent links. However, since most of the waste that occurs in the US and other industrialized countries occurs at the consumer level, food producers in these markets need to find solutions that directly impact how the consumer handles food in order for any changes to be effective. Consumer households need to be informed and modify the behaviors leading to the current high levels of food waste.
The FAO has identified a lack of coordination between actors all along the food supply chain as a contributing factor to food waste. Food packaging and processing companies need to collaborate with farmers and food suppliers as well as retailers in order to find beneficial uses for food that is presently thrown away. Additionally, it is the responsibility of companies down the entire food supply chain to educate consumers in industrialized countries about the impact of food waste.
For this reason, the Food Processors Suppliers Association (FPSA) aligned with Messe Dusseldorf (producer of interpack), who initiated the SAVE FOOD effort and partnered with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to implement and promote the Save Food program, which fights global food loss. Our shared goal is to limit food waste globally and use that excess to defeat hunger worldwide. We believe that US food processing and packaging companies can play influential roles in this campaign by identifying and improving efficiencies in the food supply chain and communicating the value of saving food to the consumer.
As a result of this part of this partnership, the Save Food Initiatives will be featured at PROCESS EXPO 2015, in addition to educational programs that will explore innovative solutions to cutting food waste. To learn more about the Save Food initiative, please visit http://www.save-food.org/.