On February 12th a new study published in PLOS ONE by a team of researchers at the University of Wagningen in the Netherlands showed that people actually waste more food than they are assessed. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that one third of all food available for human consumption is “wasted” (waste refers to food suitable for human consumption but not eaten).
This figure has been used as a reference for the extent of global food waste.
But researchers at the University of Wagningen in the Netherlands point out that FAO’s approach does not include consumer behaviour about food waste in its study, but rather takes into account only the food supply link when determining the extent of food waste.
Using human metabolic models and data from FAO, the World Bank and the World Health Organization, the researchers quantified the relationship between food waste and overconsumption. They used the model to create an international data set that provides an assessment of food waste worldwide and in specific countries.
The researchers found that once consumers reachthe threshold of about $6.70 per person per day, consumer food waste begins to increase rapidly (first as excesses increase, and then slowly to high levels of excess).
The data also suggest that FAO’s estimate of consumer food waste may be too low. Although FAO estimates food waste per capita at 214 kCal/day in 2015, the model estimates that food waste per capita was 527 kCal/day in the same year.
To achieve lower levels of food waste around the world, researchers say, we should work together to reduce high levels of food waste in high-income countries and 2) to prevent the rapid rise in high-income and middle-income countries where excess is rising.
New research using data on energy demand and overconsumption shows that consumers are wasting more than twice as much food as is widely believed. It provides a new global foundation on which progress towards the international food waste target can be measured.