One-Third of All Food Wasted Worldwide: How to Stop

Trash can with wasted food products
Trash can with wasted food products

If you've ever cooked a meal for a family made up of more than one person, there's a good chance you've become intimate with a problem that plagues the entire world: wasted food. According to a new report released last week from the United Nations, one-third of all food produced for human consumption on the planet -- about 1.3 billion tons -- is lost or wasted each year.

Lost food, or food that's not produced or processed or delivered to consumers due to inefficiencies in harvesting, processing and distribution, seems to make up the bulk of the amount -- equal to more than half of all food loss and waste in North America, two-thirds in Europe, and the vast majority (more than 90%) in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa, South and Southeast Asia, and Latin America.

In Africa and Southeast Asia, the food loss and waste is primarily made up of food that has rotted during transport from field to market or food than contains parasites and diseases from livestock, as well as food that spoils before it reaches consumers due to terribly unsanitary market conditions.

In North America and Europe, food loss is more likely to include the discarding of fruits and vegetables that are imperfect in appearance or non-uniform in size; the disposal of "extras" (the bits left over from potatoes in cutting french fries, for instance) because it's cheaper than re-use; and the dumping due to poor market prices (when it's too expensive to transport a product to market due to sudden changes in commodity pricing).