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Exposing Food Waste

Research published by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers this month suggests that up to half of all the food produced worldwide is wasted.

Around 4 billion tonnes of food is grown or reared annually. It is estimated that between 1.2 billion and 2 billion tonnes is not eaten and instead thrown away or ploughed back into the ground. 

The reasons for food wastage differ significantly between developed and developing countries. 

In less economically developed countries, for example India, the drivers for food waste tends to be poor transportation and storage infrastructure. The difficulties experienced in getting food to market before it is spoiled mean that a high proportion of produce does not make it to the customer.  

In the developed world, for example the UK, industry has designed a robust system for moving food from suppliers to consumers resulting in minimal amounts of wastage. However, a great deal of food is wasted before and after this.

The study found that up to 30% of vegetables in the UK were not harvested because of their physical appearance. Great emphasis is put on getting the best items and with both domestic and imported produce to choose from, developed countries can afford to be highly selective.

More waste occurs once it is bought by consumers. Food scraps from restaurants, over buying in the supermarket, confusion over sell by dates and uneaten food in the home all contribute to a massive 7.2 million tonnes of food going to landfill each year in the UK. 

As the global population rises, predicted to reach 9 billion by the end of the century, the ability of society to feed itself will under tremendous strain. It is clear that with so much food going to waste, measures to both preserve and conserve food must be implemented if we are too avoid hunger.

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