Food loss refers to food that was originally intended for human consumption but, through poor functioning of the food and supply system, is reduced in quantity or quality (1). For example, food that has been left to rot in the fields before it is farmed or damaged from technological errors such as failed refrigeration units. This leads to food not ending up in market, which then goes uneaten.
Food waste, on the other hand, refers to food that is ready for human consumption but has since been discarded due to behaviour and eating habits. This includes both edible and inedible parts. Food waste will often occur by choice, but can also be due to poor stock management (ordering too much inventory which leads to food expiring) or neglect (food that has been spoiled or left uneaten after preparation).
Food Loss and Waste is rampant in North America. As seen in the chart below, the United States have 415 kg per capita of Food Loss and Waste per year, which is almost twice the amount of Mexico but not far from the amount of Canada.1
- Approximately 1.3 billion tonnes of food meant for human consumption will get lost or wasted. That is almost one third!
- Food loss and waste amounts to roughly US$ 680 billion in industrialized countries and US$ 310 billion in developing countries – $990 billion worldwide.
- Fruits and vegetables (including roots and tubers) have the highest rates of food waste than any other food.
- In more industrialized countries, more than 40% of food waste happens at the retail and consumer levels. While in developing countries, more than 40% of food waste happens during the post-harvest and processing levels.
- At the retail level, large quantities of food are wasted due to quality standards that focus on appearance. If the food is not aesthetically appealing, it gets thrown out.2