Food Loss and Food Waste

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Reducing food loss and waste
World Hunger is on the rise; yet, an estimated 1/3 of all food produced globally is lost or goes to waste. We all have a part to play in reducing food loss and waste, not only for the sake of the food but for the resources that go into it. FAO is partnering with governments, international organizations, the private sector and civil society to raise awareness on the issues and to implement actions to address the root of the problem. FAO is also working with governments to develop policies to reduce food loss and waste.

What is food loss and food waste?

In 2011, FAO presented the estimate that around 1/3 of the world’s food was lost or wasted every year. Since then, much has changed in the global perception of the problem.

Food loss and waste has indeed become an issue of great public concern. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development reflects the increased global awareness of the problem. Target 12.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals calls for halving per capita global food waste at retail and consumer levels by 2030, as well as reducing food losses along the production and supply chains.

To provide more clarity on the subject and to measure progress towards SDG Target 12.3, FAO’s 2011 estimate is in the process of being replaced by two separate indices: the Food Loss Index (FLI) and the Food Waste Index (FWI).

The FLI, prepared by FAO, provides new loss estimates from post-harvest up to, but not including, the retail stage. Food waste by retailers and consumers is not included in the FLI. Initial estimates of the FLI tell us that around 14 percent of the world’s food is lost from post-harvest up to, but excluding, the retail level.

The FWI, for which estimates calculated by UN Environment are forthcoming, will provide global estimates on the food wasted at the retail and consumption levels.

Food loss is the decrease in the quantity or quality of food resulting from decisions and actions by food suppliers in the chain, excluding retailers, food service providers and consumers.

Empirically, it refers to any food that is discarded, incinerated or otherwise disposed of along the food supply chain from harvest/slaughter/catch up to, but excluding, the retail level, and does not re-enter in any other productive utilization, such as feed or seed.

Food loss, as reported by FAO in the FLI, occurs from post-harvest up to, but not including, the retail level.

Food waste refers to the decrease in the quantity or quality of food resulting from decisions and actions by retailers, food service providers and consumers.  Food is wasted in many ways:

  • Fresh produce that deviates from what is considered optimal, for example in terms of shape, size and color, is often removed from the supply chain during sorting operations.
  • Foods that are close to, at or beyond the “best-before” date are often discarded by retailers and consumers.
  • Large quantities of wholesome edible food are often unused or left over and discarded from household kitchens and eating establishments.

Less food loss and waste would lead to more efficient land use and better water resource management with positive impacts on climate change and livelihoods.


One-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally, which amounts to about 1.3 billion tonnes per year.
Food is lost or wasted throughout the supply chain from initial agricultural production all the way to final household consumption.
Food that never gets eaten also represents a waste of resources, such as land, water, energy, soil, seeds and other inputs used in its production, increasing green gas emissions in vain.

Bringing people together to reduce food loss and waste

Everyone has a part to play in reducing food loss and waste. FAO accordingly works with a broad spectrum of stakeholders and partners to tackle the problem. At the macro level, FAO works in collaboration with governments and other international bodies to promote awareness and advocacy on the issues and to develop policies to reduce FLW. At the meso-level, FAO’s activities facilitate coordination among food supply chain actors - farmers, handlers, processors and traders, in collaboration with the public and private sectors and civil society. At the micro level, FAO focuses on consumers and changing their individual attitudes, behaviours, consumption and shopping habits related to food. This is done through education, particularly focusing on providing information on safe food handling, proper food storage in households and understanding “best before” dates in order to prevent and reduce food waste.

Reducing food loss and waste is critical to creating a Zero Hunger world and reaching the world’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially SDG 2 (End Hunger) and SDG 12 (Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns).

For many people on the planet, food is a given. But for the staggering more than 820 million people who are hungry, food is not a guarantee. FAO aims to increase respect for food, as well as for the farmers who produce it, the natural resources that go into producing it and the people who go without it.


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