Up to one-third of all food is spoiled or squandered before it is consumed by people.
It is an excess in an age in which almost a billion people go hungry and represents a waste of the labour, water, energy, land and other inputs that went into producing that food.
Food loss and food waste refer to the decrease of food in subsequent stages of the food supply chain intended for human consumption. Food is lost or wasted throughout the supply chain, from initial production down to final household consumption.
The decrease may be accidental or intentional, but ultimately leads to less food available for all. Food that gets spilled or spoiled before it reaches its final product or retail stage is called food loss.
This may be due to problems in harvesting, storage, packing, transport, infrastructure or market-price mechanisms, as well as institutional and legal frameworks.
For example, harvested bananas that fall off a truck are considered food loss. Food that is fit for human consumption but is not consumed because it spoiled or was discarded by retailers or consumers is called food waste. This may be because of rigid or misunderstood date marking rules, improper storage or buying or cooking practices. A carton of brown-spotted bananas thrown away by a shop is considered food waste.
Efforts to reduce food losses and waste are gathering increasing global interest and action. Governments, research institutions, producers, distributors, retailers and consumers have different ideas about how to solve the problem and the ability to change.
As an intergovernmental organization, FAO is in a position to play the role of a neutral and independent facilitator.
FAO can co-ordinate, at a global level, the initiatives, activities and projects on food losses waste reduction by partnering with United Nations agencies, other international organizations and worldwide stakeholders, including the private sector and civil society.
FAO and Messe Düsseldorf are collaborating with donors, bi- and multi-lateral agencies, financial institutions and private sector partners, such as the food packaging industry, to develop and implement the program on food loss and waste reduction. The operation for this global initiative is founded on four pillars:
- Raising awareness on the impact of and solutions for food loss and waste.
- Collaboration and co-ordination of worldwide initiatives on food loss and waste reduction.
- Policy, strategy and program development for food loss and waste reduction.
- Support to investment programs and projects, implemented by private and public sectors.
The Save Food approach works within an international framework such as the Millennium Development Goals, the upcoming Sustainable Development Goals, the Post 2015 Agenda and the Zero Hunger Challenge.
For more information, see the Global Initiative on Food Loss and Waste Reduction.
The Food and Agriculture Organization is an agency of the United Nations.