FAO: Reducing food waste is easy

“As the world population grows, so will demand for food. To try to feed the rising population, agricultural production has increased globally by almost 300 percent over the past 50 years,” according to the official website of FAO, News.az reports.

At the same time, according to the latest data released by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in its 2023 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report, an estimated average 735 million people suffer from hunger or malnutrition in the world, and large amount of edible food is lost or wasted.

Food is lost and wasted along the whole food value chain - from production through handling, transportation, storage, and distribution, and then finally at consumption. Household habits account for nearly 570 million tonnes of food wasted each year globally, according to the United Nations Environmental Programme data. In personal terms, each of us, on average, wastes around 74 kg of food every year.

Despite campaigns to raise awareness and educate people about the issue and the efforts to tackle it, the volumes of food discarded in households remain high.

To empower them, FAO designed a practical guide for consumers, providing easy-to-implement tips and recommendations for preventing food waste. The guide supports everyone along the journey from buying to consuming food.

“The causes of such food waste are many, including individual, social, and societal factors. Therefore, curbing food waste requires measures at different levels and joined and coordinated action of food businesses and policy makers,” said Robert van Otterdijk, FAO Agro-industry Officer. “However, while improving infrastructure and policy and regulation frameworks is critical, these measures will work only if consumers engage at their level and are committed to changing their patterns.”

That is, informed policies, sound food industry practices and marketing strategies, access to sustainable choices must be in place to create the opportunity for people to make adequate food-related decisions. In addition, the change of resource-intensive consumption pattern requires motivation of people to reconsider their everyday habits, as well as knowledge and skills to do so.

It starts with understanding the issue. For this, the FAO invites consumers to keep a food waste diary for a week, which is also included in the guide. The diary will help assess the amount of wasted food and the reasons behind it. Then, the recommendations are as simple as checking one’s fridge and pantry and making a shopping list before buying food to avoid impulsive purchases or buying more food than needed. When buying discounted perishable foods such as fruits, vegetables and salad, buying less fresh food more often is an easy way to prevent food waste at home.

Confusion about “best before” and “use by” dates is reported to be one of the major causes of food waste in households. The guide also explains different food date marking. Food may still be safe to eat after the “best before” date, whereas it’s the “use by” date that tells one when it is no longer safe to eat.

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