A new report states that more than 2 billion tons of food is wasted each year. The bulk of this waste is being caused by poor storage, strict sell-by guidelines, bulk offers and consumer finickiness, according to a report by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE). The report also found that as much as 550 billion cubic meters of water were being used to grow crops that never made it to the dinner table.
Upwards of 30 percent of all vegetables go un-harvested because of their physical appearance alone. The finding is staggering, said IMechE’s Dr. Tim Fox, whose report found that half of the 4+ billion tons of food produced annually ends up in the garbage. And half of the food American and European consumers buy at their grocers every week also ends up being thrown away.
When it comes to supermarkets, entire crops can be rejected because they are the wrong size or have the wrong appearance, even though they are perfectly edible. While many grocery chains reject foods based on their customers’ shopping habits, many other supermarkets are guilty of encouraging consumers to buy more than they can eat, according to the report.
Sell-by and use-by dates are also contributing to the food waste conundrum. Supermarkets often use conservative estimates to avoid the threat of legal action in the case of a consumer consuming outdated food that may or may not make them sick. And more often than not, consumers are throwing their food away prematurely because the use-by date is often several days prior to when the food would have actually gone bad, if not longer.
Perhaps an even more shocking trend is that roughly 45,000 pounds of food is thrown away per restaurant per year in the UK—and thirty percent of that is off the consumer’s plate, according to Tom Tanner of the Sustainable Restaurants Association.
Fox, head of energy and environment at IMechE, said: “The amount of food wasted and lost around the world is overwhelming. This is food that could be used to feed the world’s growing population – as well as those in hunger today.”
It’s absurd that farmers around the country are not harvesting 30 percent of their crops for fear they will not meet supermarket standards.
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. In order for this to happen governments, development agencies and organizations 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.
Source Global Food; Waste Not, Want Not, and Lawrence Leblond for Your Universe Online