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Up to half the world's food is wasted

Up to half the world’s food is ultimately thrown away, according to a report which blames poor storage, over-strict sell-by dates, bulk offers and consumer behaviour.

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IME) says that between 30% and 50% of the four billion tonnes of food produced around the world each year is lost.

Dr Fox, head of energy and environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said: “The reasons for this situation range from poor engineering and agricultural practices, inadequate transport and storage infrastructure through to supermarkets demanding cosmetically perfect foodstuffs and encouraging consumers to overbuy through buy-one-get-one-free offers.

“It is also an unnecessary waste of the land, water and energy resources that were used in the production, processing and distribution of this food.”

The report - Global Food; Waste Not, Want Not - says that in mature, fully developed countries such as the UK, more-efficient farming practices and better transport, storage and processing facilities ensure that a larger proportion of the food produced reaches markets and consumers. However, characteristics associated with modern consumer culture mean produce is often wasted through retail and customer behaviour.

Of the produce that does appear in the supermarket, commonly used sales promotions frequently encourage customers to purchase excessive quantities which, in the case of perishable foodstuffs, inevitably generate wastage in the home. Overall between 30% and 50% of what has been bought in developed countries is thrown away by the purchaser.

The IME also found that 550 billion cubic metres of water is being used to grow crops that are never eaten.

Dr Fox added: “As water, land and energy resources come under increasing pressure from competing human demands, engineers have a crucial role to play in preventing food loss and waste by developing more efficient ways of growing, transporting and storing foods.

“But in order for this to happen governments, development agencies and organisation like the UN must work together to help change people’s mindsets on waste and discourage wasteful practices by farmers, food producers, supermarkets and consumers.”

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