Food loss and food waste are common problems in European countries, which are often ignored by the public yet. According to surveys undertaken by the UK’s Waste and Resources Action Programme, the average households throw away about 25 percent of the food that they purchase. There are many reasons why consumers discard the food, for example food is not stored in a proper way then becomes spoiling. This blog will focus on the debates around food waste issue and will compare the reasons in different context countries. The first part of analysis will introduce the background of food loss and food waste and will concentrate the different reasons in different countries. Then in the second level of this blog, I will demonstrate the recent debates on food waste.
Food issues are generally regarded as the problems on agricultural aspect. However, it should link with economic, social and developmental angles as some countries waste a staggering volume of food while some countries still suffer from hunger problem such as Africa. According to surveys undertaken by the UK’s Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), the average households throw away about 25 percent of the food that they purchase. UK households are throwing away 4.2 million tonnes of avoidable household food and drink annually; the equivalent of six meals every week for the average UK household.(WRAP,2012)
In recent years there has been increasing awareness towards food losses and the emphasis is put in the process of the Food Supply Chain (FSC ) since food losses may occurs during the various stages of the FSC. (Gustavsson et al. 2011) Food waste is defined as the loss of food at the end of the FSC (Griffin 2008), which means the distribution process, retail process and final consumption.
Food loss in different countries
According to The Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology, Gustavsson put forward an idea with a chart (Graph1) and show food losses mainly occurs the early FSC in low income countries, while, in high and medium areas a great deal of food is wasted in general at the end of FSC. (http://www.madr.ro/docs/ind-alimentara/risipa_alimentara/presentation_food_waste.pdf)
(Graph1: Percentage of waste, SIK- The Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology)
By means of FSC it is easy to analysis some possible obvious reasons of waste. Gustavssion proposes the idea on her reports Global Food Losses and Food Waste based on Save Food Congress through by FSC analysis. Counties are divided into two groups. Low income countries include North Africa Asia region and Latin Amerika. Medium and high income countries consist of Europe, USA, Canada and Australia as well as China, Japan and South Korea.
The total volumes of waste demonstrate that South and South-eastern Asia lose most food in the agricultural production, postharvest handling and storage process in the supply chain among the low income counties (Graph 2) because of the technical and economic reasons. For instance, poor storage facilities such as such as rodents, parasites and fungus make food low quality and quantity.
(Graph2: Volumes of waste in low income countries, SIK)
On the contrast in the high income countries, the most volumes of waste is Industrialized Asia, interestingly, however the most value of lost is Europe. (Graph 3) manufacture and consumers should be responsible for the food.
(Graph3: Volumes of waste in medium and high income countries, SIK)
A significant gap exists in the understanding of the food waste implications of the rapid development of ‘BRIC’ economies. The limited data suggest that losses are much higher at the immediate post-harvest stages in developing countries and higher for perishable foods across industrialized and developing economies alike. (Perfit 2010)
There exists a tendency to blame to the consumer or individualise responsibilities for currently wasted in UK. (Evans 2011) Recommendations appear to be limited to interventions that target knowledge, attitudes and the behaviours that individuals choose to undertake. Householders purchase food beyond the families’ needs and the lack of capacities of cooking and storage also result of food waste. Boyland emphasis that the brands of production does have influence on consumers but also the behaviours of waste. (Botland,)
Due to the cultural, social or economic decisions made by producer and final consumers. Especially, great number of UK householders chose to throw foods away because of best-before-dates which is different from use-by-date; actually food may still be good to eat yet. . (Dorward 2012) Packaging which is in the end of FSC plays an important role in reducing food waste as well. Williams indicates that packaging affects food waste in households although is usually scarce. (Williams el at 2012)Luca Secondi investigates the behaviours of European citizens and a two-level framework modeling is built and studied according to citizens’ food waste behaviours. What is important, Secondi suggest both individual and contextual levels should be considered as potential variable associated with food waste. (Secondi et al. 2015)
From above debates, we might draw conclusions food waste is the result of multiple, complex factors and behaviour relating to various aspects rather than the outcome of a single behaviour (Quested et al., 2011) Since food waste at consumer level is a fairly new research topic, the factors that lead to this phenomenon are still under analysis and discussion (Principato et al., 2015). Although this blog analysed many reason of food waste, the most crucial point is how to alleviate waste phenomenon and reduce householders’ behaviour. I will give the possible solutions on the next blog.
Boyland, E. and Christiansen, P. (2015). Brands and Food-Related Decision Making in the Laboratory: How Does Food Branding Affect Acute Consumer Choice, Preference, and Intake Behaviours? A Systematic Review of Recent Experimental Findings. Journal of Agricultural & Food Industrial Organization, 13(1).
Dorward, L. (2012). Where are the best opportunities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the food system (including the food chain)? A comment. Food Policy, 37(4), pp.463-466.
Evans, D. (2011). Blaming the consumer – once again: the social and material contexts of everyday food waste practices in some English households. Critical Public Health, 21(4), pp.429-440.
Griffin, M., Sobal, J. and Lyson, T. (2008). An analysis of a community food waste stream. Agric Hum Values, 26(1-2), pp.67-81.
Gustvassion, J. Cederberg,C .,Sonesson,U. (2015). Global Food Lossesand Food Waste. Save Food Congress. Available at: http://www.madr.ro/docs/ind-alimentara/risipa_alimentara/presentation_food_waste.pdf [online] [Accessed 12 Dec. 2015].
Perfit,J., Barthel,M 2010.Food waste within food supply chains:quantification and potential for change to 2050.Philos.Teans.R Soc.B:Biol.Sci.365(1554),3065-3081
Principato, L., Secondi, L. and Pratesi, C. (2015). Reducing food waste: an investigation on the behaviour of Italian youths. British Food Journal, 117(2), pp.731-748.
Quested,T.E. Parry,A.DSwannell,P.,2011. Food and drink waste from householders in the UK.Nutr.Bull.36(4),460-467
Secondi, L., Principato, L. and Laureti, T. (2015). Household food waste behaviour in EU-27 countries: A multilevel analysis. Food Policy, 56, pp.25-40.
Williams, H., Wikström, F., Otterbring, T., Löfgren, M. and Gustafsson, A. (2012). Reasons for household food waste with special attention to packaging. Journal of Cleaner Production, 24, pp.141-148.
Wrap.org.uk, (2015). Household food and drink waste in the UK 2012 | WRAP UK. [online] Available at: http://www.wrap.org.uk/content/household-food-and-drink-waste-uk-2012 [Accessed 12 Dec. 2015].