About food loss and food waste

“What is food loss and food waste?”


food loss and waste

Food Loss refers to a decrease in the quantity and quality of food, which occurs during production, harvesting, post-harvest handling, processing and distribution of food. Food loss takes place at the beginning of the food supply chain.


Food Losses include:

  • By-products or secondary products that are meant to be consumed by people, but which cannot be processed because of technical limitations, or because of the lack of access to a market, and are therefore discarded or used for purposes other than for food.
  • Food that is fit to enter the food supply chain, but which is intentionally discarded or used for purposes other than food (e.g. used as feed or is left to rot in the field) before harvest.
  • Food that is spoiled before it is harvested.



Food Waste refers to food losses that result from discarding food that is fit for human consumption. It occurs at the end of the supply chain, such as in the household, in restaurants and in supermarkets.


Food Waste includes

  • Food that is discarded through sorting and grading without getting spoiled (e.g. fruits and vegetables that are discarded because they are too small, too large or of the wrong size or shape).
  • Food that is left on the plate and which is redirected for use as animal feed or compost.


food waste and loss 2Every year, approximately 1/3 or 33% of all food produced in the world is lost or wasted. In Asia and the Pacific Region, between 15 and 50% of the fruits, and 12-30% of grains are lost between the producer and the market.



Critical issues in the region

Mr Q -unhappy1 -

Post-harvest losses account for a majority of the food loss sustained in developing countries across Asia and the Pacific region. Between 15 and 50 percent of fruits and vegetables and up to 30 percent of grains produced across Asia and the Pacific region are lost between the farm and the market.

The underlying causes of post-harvest losses in these chains include a lack of production planning, pest infestations and diseases, poor and inadequate infrastructure such as roads, water, power and market facilities, lack of dedicated transport systems for food and poor quality bulk packaging that result in spillage and damage. The limited knowledge base of stakeholders also contributes to the high levels of post-harvest loss.

While food waste is prevalent in the more developed economies of the region, it is a growing problem in the urban centres of many countries in Asia and the Pacific. On average, approximately 11kg of food per capita per year is wasted in developing Asian countries, while an estimated 80 kg of food per capita per year is waste in developed Asian countries (FAO, 2011).

Sustainability issues – To feed the region’s growing population, increasing pressure will be placed on already scarce land and water resources. Greater attention needs to be placed on resource efficiency – by decreasing food losses and food waste – to meet the region’s demand for food now and in the future.



“If we can help food producers to reduce losses through better harvesting, processing, storage, transport and marketing methods, and combine this with profound and lasting changes in the way people consume food, then we can have a healthier and hunger-free world”.

Graziano da Silva
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations



135_be careful not wasteful_IMG_1352Food losses and food waste have negative environmental, economic and social impacts. They represent a missed opportunity to feed the region’s growing population, with potentially negative impacts on the sustainability of food systems and on food security and nutrition.

Food losses and food waste represent a major waste of resources – of labour, land, water, fuel and other resources used in food production – and are a source of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

Promoting sustainable consumption can, however, help in mitigating these impacts, through reducing resource use, degradation and pollution caused by food losses and food waste, while increasing the quality of life for all.

Food losses and food waste have negative economic impacts for all stakeholders in the supply chain. They lower incomes of producers and increase the price of food for consumers. Reducing food losses and food waste would, therefore, provide economic benefits for both producers and consumers.




Questions-answers Mr Q




 “Food wastage footprint: impacts on natural resources”

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“Global food losses and food waste”

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Global estimates of food losses

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Videos about food waste and food loss

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