The food is wasted every day, starting from the suppliers on the farms to our households and dining tables. Naturally, a small amount of discarded food wouldn’t be a noticeable problem. However, as the world population is growing rapidly, food wastage is increasing simultaneously.
There have been numerous attempts to estimate food waste and food loss along the food supply chain. The FAO brought the two separate measurements, the Food Loss Index (FLI) and the Food Waste Index (FLW), which help track these values.
A significant amount of food is trashed at the supplier level. Farms and factories experience losses due to the changeable weather conditions, technological deficiency, and inadequate storage. The causes of food waste differ depending on the part of the world. For example, in industrialized countries, the harvest of fruits and vegetables experiences losses because of the high-quality standards that the retail level imposes. In other words, if the products don’t look perfect enough to be sold at the retail level, they will be thrown away. In contrast, the biggest losses in developing countries happen at the processing stage. Many fruits and veggies that expire soon do not last until the end of the processing step, which calls for other more efficient solutions, and drying could be one of them. (http://www.fao.org/3/bt300e/bt300e.pdf)
Furthermore, expanding the storage on farms, educating the farmers and incorporating more advanced farming techniques could significantly decrease the food loss at the supply level in the developing countries.
At the distribution level of the food supply chain, much of the loss happens due to improper logistics. If the food has a shorter shelf life, their transport should be organized with the higher turnover outlets, which would enable quicker delivery to the store while the product is still fresh.
The retail and the consumer level are a vital cause of food waste as well. The retail industry sets specific food product standards according to the consumer’s wishes and buying preferences. A few years ago, almost every supermarket discarded the food behind the “best-before” date while it was still fresh and good to be consumed. Luckily, there have been changes at the legislative level throughout the world. The number of supermarkets required to redistribute their food to organizations concerned with food sharing is now increasing.
Ultimately, the consumers should be aware of the food waste they produce at home. Many people don’t care much when throwing still good leftovers or watching their fruit getting spoiled after a long time of not eating it. These habits should be changed and addressed globally. Developed countries waste more food than developing countries due to the higher demand and bigger buying power. If only this money would be used wisely and not thrown away along with the food that is not used.
The entire food supply chain is a complex and interconnected system where each stage affects the others. Therefore, decreasing food loss and waste on every level at the same time could benefit the entire supply system. Introducing the improved techniques and technologies, educating every participant of the chain, expanding the storage at the farms, improving the distribution logistics and redistributing the food from the supermarkets are some of the ways these losses could be decreased.