A new study by the United Kingdom’s Institution of Mechanical Engineers found that about half of all the food produced in the world, between 1.2 and 2 billion tons goes to waste every year. The UK group estimates that between 30% and 50% of this food is wasted before it even touches a plate.
According to IMechE the huge amount of food waste might be partially due to strict sell-by dates that force plenty of fresh food to be thrown out simply because law says that is has expired. Other potential causes for this food waste are poor engineering and agricultural practices, buy-one-get-one-free deals and consumer demand for exceptional food that is physically flawless.
This information brings to light the earlier prediction by the United Nations that by the end of the 21st century there could be an additional 3 billion people to feed. This added stress on our resources brings to light the current strategies we use in food production that are not efficient, and raises the need to urgent action to account for the wasted food.
IMechE’s report on food waste, Global Food; Waste Not, Want Not analyzed farming and consumption practices in the UK, Europe and United States. In the UK farmers fail to harvest up to 30% of their vegetable crops simply because they don’t meet retailers’ ideal physical appearance. In addition, up to 50% of the food purchased in Europe and the United States is thrown away by consumers.
Water is a key facet to food production, and is similarly wasted by production methods that leave so many crops uneaten. Meat consumption adds extra pressure on resources, requiring 20-50 times the amount of water to produce 1kg of meat than 1kg of vegetables. By 2050 the demand for water in food production is expected to be 2.5 to 3.5 times greater than the total human use of fresh water today.
The Institute of Mechanical Engineers estimates that with the current losses in food and water, the world can currently produce 60-100% more food by freeing up resources and fixing losses and waste.
“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”, said Tim Fox, the head of energy and environment at the IMechE.
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