Wealthy consumers throw out nearly 530 calories per day, study finds, more than double previous food waste estimates

Food Waste
Credit: One Green Planet

Consumers are likely wasting much more food than commonly believed, according to a study published …. in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Monika van den Bos Verma and colleagues from Wageningen University and Research, The Netherlands.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimated that in 2005, one third of all food available for human consumption was wasted (in this context, “waste” refers to food fit for human consumption which went uneaten). This figure has continued to serve as reference for the extent of global food waste. However, the FAO methodology does not factor in consumer behavior regarding food waste and considers food supply alone in determining the extent of food waste. This study is the first to investigate if and how consumer affluence may affect food waste.

Using a human metabolism model and data from FAO, the World Bank, and the World Health Organization, van den Bos Verma and colleagues quantified the relationship between food waste and consumer affluence. Using this model, they created an international dataset providing estimates of global as well as country specific food waste.

The authors found that once consumer affluence reaches a spending threshold of approximately $6.70/day per capita per day, consumer food waste starts to rise- increasing rapidly with rising affluence at first, and then at much slower rates at higher levels of affluence.

Their data also showed that FAO’s estimates of consumer food waste may be too low. While FAO estimated food waste to be 214 Kcal/day per capita in 2015, this model estimated food waste as 527 Kcal/day per capita for the same year.

Related article:  'Synthetic biology doesn’t have to be scary': It could offer us new medicines, biofuels and everything in between

This work relies on the accuracy of FAO’s data, which may not always be complete (for instance, low-income country surveys don’t always include food from subsistence farming). The authors also note there are many consumer attributes that may affect food wastage beyond affluence.

However, this work suggests that to achieve low global food waste, a joint focus on 1) reducing high food waste levels in high income countries, and 2) preventing waste levels from rising rapidly in lower-middle income countries where affluence is increasing may be needed. The authors believe that the method behind this study can be used as a basis to introduce the affluence elasticity of waste as a new concept in future models, better understand and assess current food waste magnitudes, and help measure global progress in reducing food waste.

The authors add: “Novel research using energy requirement and consumer affluence data shows that consumers waste more than twice as much food as is commonly believed. It provides a new globally comparable base against which one can measure progress on the international food waste target (SDG12), and suggests a threshold level of consumer affluence around which to launch intervention policies to prevent food waste from becoming a big problem.”

Outbreak
Outbreak Daily Digest
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
Talking Biotech
Genetics Unzipped
can you boost your immune system to prevent coronavirus spread x

Video: How to boost your immune system to guard against COVID and other illnesses

Scientists have recently developed ways to measure your immune age. Fortunately, it turns out your immune age can go down ...
mag insects image superjumbo v

Disaster interrupted: Which farming system better preserves insect populations: Organic or conventional?

A three-year run of fragmentary Armageddon-like studies had primed the journalism pumps and settled the media framing about the future ...
dead bee desolate city

Are we facing an ‘Insect Apocalypse’ caused by ‘intensive, industrial’ farming and agricultural chemicals? The media say yes; Science says ‘no’

The media call it the “Insect Apocalypse”. In the past three years, the phrase has become an accepted truth of ...
globalmethanebudget globalcarbonproject cropped x

Infographic: Cows cause climate change? Agriculture scientist says ‘belching bovines’ get too much blame

A recent interview by Caroline Stocks, a UK journalist who writes about food, agriculture and the environment, of air quality ...
organic hillside sweet corn x

Organic v conventional using GMOs: Which is the more sustainable farming?

Many consumers spend more for organic food to avoid genetically modified products in part because they believe that “industrial agriculture” ...
benjamin franklin x

Are most GMO safety studies funded by industry?

The assertion that biotech companies do the research and the government just signs off on it is false ...
gmo corn field x

Do GMO Bt (insect-resistant) crops pose a threat to human health or the environment?

Bt is a bacterium found organically in the soil. It is extremely effective in repelling or killing target insects but ...
favicon

Environmental Working Group: EWG challenges safety of GMOs, food pesticide residues

Known by some as the "Environmental Worrying Group," EWG lobbies for tighter GMO legislation and famously puts out annual "dirty dozen" list of fruits and ...
m hansen

Michael Hansen: Architect of Consumers Union ongoing anti-GMO campaign

Michael K. Hansen (born 1956) is thought by critics to be the prime mover behind the ongoing campaign against agricultural biotechnology at Consumer Reports. He is an ...
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
Optional. Mail on special occasions.
Send this to a friend