Food waste issue has become an issue of concern all over the world. For example, Americans waste approximately 150,000 tons of food every day which is equivalent to a pound per person. In their article “Household Food Waste: Multivariate Regression and Principal Components Analyses of Awareness and Attitudes among U.S. Consumers” Danyi Qi and Brian E. Roe states that “About one-third of the world’s edible food is lost or wasted annually, while the challenge to feed the projected world population of 9.3 billion people by the mid-century will require 60% more food than is currently produced.”The healthiest people are most wasteful. People who live on healthy diets which include fruits and vegetables tend to waste more food. Fruits and vegetables are highly perishable, which means they are frequently thrown out. Also, unlike other sources of food such as meat, fruits and vegetables require more water as well as labor and chemicals such as pesticides to ensure that they are fully grown and ready to be consumed (Royte). This paper aims to identify the effects of food wastage, causes of food wastage and various measures that should be taken to help reduce food wastage.
There are many negative impacts of food wastage. Food wastage does not only include the wastage of the final products. It also includes the wastage of other resources such as water, labor, chemical inputs and nutrients that would have been consumed by consumers (Royte). Moreover, food wastage has a significant impact on economic, social and environmental costs. Food thrown into the garbage often end up into our landfills where it creates toxic gasses. Therefore, unless it is well-managed food wastage can lead to potential public health and environmental risks and as toxic gasses such as methane and leachate can be released from the landfills into the surrounding environment.
Food wastage starts from the farm and ends with the consumers. The intermediaries or the retailers are also not doing much to help in food reduction (Aubrey). For example, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, only four of the ten largest grocery chains in America have specific food waste reduction commitments. Out of the ten, a further four do not prevent food wastage of food that is considered too cosmetically “imperfect” to sell. Therefore, there are different stages of food loss and food wastage.
The first stage of food waste occurs during production where food can either be lost due to spillage (Aubrey). As a result of poor harvest or due to animal deaths. The second stage occurs during post-harvest handling and storage. This is mainly as a result of transportation issues between the farmers and distributors or due to poor or insufficient storage. The third stage is during processing. This stage mainly affects meat from animals which can be lost due to trimming spillage during slaughtering. The fourth stage is the distribution stage where food is lost at the market due to a poor market system or failure to sell the food due to various reasons. The final stage is consumption. This mainly involves food waste by an individual at the household level especially when people purchase more food than they can consume and they end up disposing of what is left. Each of these stages plays a part in the increase in amount.
Causes of food wastage tend to differ in developed and developing countries (Royte). In developing countries due to lack of food and money, farmers tend to harvest crops too early. In most cases, food harvested too early loses both economic and nutritional value. The crops are often not mature enough and therefore when they reach the market their value is not as high as compared to those which were given enough time to mature. As a result, most of the crops are not sold, and they end up being disposed of. Also, crops which are not mature lack nutritional value which means consumers at the market will not consider buying them.
Moreover, developing countries use minimal farming technology such as tractors, plows, and cheap pesticides (Royte). Therefore, most of the crops do not go past the production stage due to poor farming methods. Inadequate market systems is another major factor that has contributed to the increase in food loss in developing countries. Markets in developing countries are often overcrowded, lack proper cooling equipment, small and unsanitary which often leads to wastage of most farm products. Also, fresh produce such as meat, and fish often spoil before reaching the market due to poor storage and the lack of proper transportation. Therefore, defects in production and distribution of food are the main causes of food waste in developing countries.
In developed countries, the main cause of food wastage is the production of excess food. Out of anticipation of pest attacks and poor weather farmers in developed tend to produce excess food (Royte). As a result, the food produced is more food that they actually need. The excess food is usually disposed of. Moreover, Supermarkets in developed countries have high appearance quality standards which makes them reject most crops under the claims that they are not favorable in terms of shape weight or size. Also, the large quantities of products displayed in the supermarkets reach their sell-by date before they are sold. Bulk sized packaging in most supermarkets and serving of large portion meals in restaurants is also another cause of food wastage in developed countries. Moreover, people living in developed countries buy more food than needed and instead of using or reusing the excess food they believe that disposing of the excess food is cheaper. Therefore excess food production and poor marketing strategies are the causes of food wastage in developed countries.
There are many measures that can be taken to help reduce food wastage at different levels. Improved technology and methodology in production, as well as public awareness, are the primary measures that should be taken to help address the issue of food wastage. According to Danyi Qi and Brian E. Roe“So much food waste is attributable to consumers.” Therefore, the most effective way to help reduce food wastage is to educate consumers on how to store fruits and vegetables properly. It is evident much food waste is attributed to consumers. Therefore, for the United States to attain its goal to reduce food waste by 50%, consumers have to be an integral part of this project. However, in order to fully incorporate the consumers in the plan to reduce food wastage, they have to first assess consumer awareness, their attitude, and opinion in relation to food wastage (Danyi Qi and Brian E. Roe). Also, they need to help them realize the environmental threat posed by food waste.
Additionally, most researchers often focus on household level waste during their studies. Only a few of these studies have examined food wastage by analyzing food distribution or retail settings and very few studies have been conducted to help understand the impact food wasted at a farm level has to the economy and at the farm level (Aubrey). If researchers put more efforts on looking into food wastage at the farm level, they can help save a lot of food from being wasted. Both private and public should join hands and work together to best to better characterize, quantify, and reduce food waste. Also, the introduction of initiatives such as the removal of sell-by dates and Food label guides can also help reduce food waste. Together with ensuring that the excess food is fed to the hungry, especially people living in the streets, these measures will help a lot in reducing food wastage.
In conclusion, it is evident that both developing and developed nations have been victims of food loss and food waste. The amount of food lost annually is enough to feed three billion people. The US is the most affected where 30% of the produced food is not eaten. Moreover, food wastage has a significant negative impact on economic, social and environmental costs. According to the information gathered from a various source most food is lost due to excess production, lack of market for the already produced food and poor storage and preservation methods. However, various measures described in this essay can help reduce food wastage.
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