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Food waste worse than previously thought

By EARLE GALE in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-02-14 09:09
A worker dumps pre-consumer food waste before being feed to black soldier fly larvae at the Enterra Feed Corporation in Langley, British Columbia, Canada, March 14, 2018. [Photo/Agencies]

Each person on the planet wastes more than 500 calories of food every day, according to researchers from the Netherlands who say the squandering contributes to global warming and does nothing to feed the hungry.

"From what we currently have in our kitchens, we could feed five persons instead of four," Thom Achterbosch of Wageningen University told the BBC.

He was part of a team that found previous estimates of food waste, which pegged the average person's at 214 calories, were far too low. The researchers say the actual figure is more like 527 calories. People typically need between 2,000 and 2,500 calories a day to flourish.

Monika van den Bos Verma, an economist from Wageningen University who was also part of the team, said: "Data shows that consumers waste more than twice as much food as is commonly believed."

The Daily Mail newspaper says the amount of waste is equivalent to each person on the planet throwing away a McDonald's Big Mac every day.

The team says in its report published in the peer-reviewed open access scientific journal Plos One, which is produced by the United States-based Public Library of Science, that the waste it is talking about is only that of end consumers. The total would be much higher if waste from farmers, processors, wholesalers, and retailers is factored in. The United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization, or FAO, estimates that overall food waste could be around one third of the total food produced.

The researchers in the latest study say it is important for us to know how much food is being wasted because it contributes greatly to the production of greenhouse gases, likely around 10 percent of the total.

The researchers used data from the FAO, the World Bank, and the World Health Organization to compile their report.

They said food waste is a much bigger problem in wealthier countries, but noted it is becoming an issue almost everywhere. The study found people tend not to waste food when their daily spending threshold is less than $6.7 per person. Waste rises quickly when daily spending levels exceed that.

Past estimates from the FAO say around $680 billion of food is wasted in total in industrialized countries every year, and around $310 billion in developing nations.

Verma told New Scientist magazine: "We have to wake up. I hope it's a wake-up call."

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