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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?

An estimated one third of all food produced globally is either lost or wasted. In an age where almost one  billion people go hungry, this is unacceptable. Food loss and waste (FLW) represent a misuse of the labour, water, energy, land and other natural resources that went into producing it.  Food embodies much more than what is on our plates. It is, therefore, important that we recognize, appreciate and respect the value of food.

Food loss refers to any food that is lost in the supply chain between the producer and the market. This may be the result of pre-harvest problems, such as pest infestations, or problems in harvesting, handling, storage, packing or transportation. Some of the underlying causes of food loss include the inadequacy of infrastructure, markets, price mechanisms or even the lack of legal frameworks. Tomatoes crushed during transport because of improper packaging is one example of food loss.

Food waste, on the other hand, refers to the discarding or alternative (non-food) use of food that is safe and nutritious for human consumption.  Food is wasted in many ways:

  • Fresh produce that deviates from what is considered optimal in terms of shape, size and color, for example 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 and food 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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