Food losses and waste in the context of sustainable food systems - E-consultation to set the track of the study

03.04.2013 - 30.04.2013

The Committee on World Food Security (CFS) in its thirty-ninth Session (October 2012) requested the High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE), to undertake a study on ‘Food losses and waste in the context of sustainable food systems’ to be presented to the Plenary in 2014. This report has to be policy oriented, practical and operational.

As part of its report elaboration process, the HLPE is launching an e-consultation to seek views, public feedback and comments, on the pertinence and interconnections of some key questions that the report proposes to address, in line with the request from the CFS, and that could form the building blocks of the report. References of global and national studies and data on the subject, especially on food waste, are also welcome.

The feedback received will be used by the HLPE Steering Committee to finalize the terms of reference of the study and the HLPE Project Team that will be appointed to prepare the study and policy recommendations.

To download the proposed scope, please click here.
If you wish to contribute, send an email or use the form below.

The consultation is open until 30th April 2013.


In parallel, the HLPE is calling experts interested in participating or in leading the Project Team for this report. Information on this call is available on the HLPE website. The HLPE Steering Committee will appoint the Project Team after review of candidatures.

The HLPE Steering Committee

Maimouna Thiaw Canada

Madame, Monsieur, 

Afin de me joindre  à la consultation sur les pertes et gaspillages alimentaires, voici ma modeste contribution:

Il serait important de mettre en place des campagnes de sensibilisation sur le gaspillage alimentaire, en utilisant les medias populaires (TV, internet)  afin de toucher le plus de monde possible.

Cette sensibilisation devrait s'étendre aussi au niveau des chaines de distribution alimentaires et des restaurants. En effet, d'aprés le rapport final (nov, 2011) sur les pertes et gaspillages alimentaires du ministère français de l'Agriculture, de l'Alimentation, de la Pêche, de la Ruralité et e l'Aménagement du territoire, les pertes s'élèvent à plus de 350g par personne par repas dans la restauration et à environ 200t/ etablissement/an dans la grande distribution (  Il est donc primordial de mettre en place un système de gestion efficace afin d'évaluer les besoins des consommateurs et de limiter les excés d'inventaires.

Aussi, l'uniformisation de nombreuses cultures et la recherche de l'esthétisme a conduit à un rejet automatique de produits alimentaires, nutritionellement satisfaisants, mais physiquement inattrayants pour le consommateur. Prenons l'exemple des tomates et des carottes qui sont automatiquement calibrées afin de répondre à des cahiers de charge spécifiques. Les produits "non conformes", bien que consommables, sont automatiquement rejetés, ce qui constitue un gaspillage évitable. Il serait donc intéressant de réapprendre à apprécier la qualité intrinsèque des produits alimentaires que nous consommons, tout en donnant une chance aux variétés abandonnées car non rentables économiquement. 

Enfin dans les pays pauvres ou en voie de développement, la mise en place d'unité de transformation et de stockage adéquats dont le fonctionnement ferait appel aux energies vertes (unités de refrigération alimentées par l'energie solaire par exemple) permettrait de limiter grandement les pertes de production.


Maimouna Thiaw,
Professionnelle de l'Agroalimentaire,
Montréal, Canada

Khaled Al-talafih Jordan
  1. The focusing in this issue is very important thing because of the high amount of losses and wastes in food if which it decreased these lead to make food available with good price to hungry people in the world without need to increase the area of production.
  2. It is very important to increase the awareness in all the world about the important of food and we must used what we need and avoid buying and storing more what we need, specially in these days the food is available all the time in markets, and clarify for all people about the efforts for production, transportation, storage and cost of the food and that many other people didn’t have the food or cant afford to buy it.
  3. It is important to inform the people about the cost of wasting food in the personal level and national and international level by decrease the bill of buying the food.
  4. Focusing on how anyone to buy and how to storage food in the home consumption level.
  5. Encouragement of the local associations to collect the surpass food in hotels, restaurants, after the big feast, and what the people donate to distribute to hungry people.
  6.  Encouragement the consumer to buy what need of food (fresh) because it is available and not buy more than they need to store.
  7. Increase the awareness for all people in the world about the difficulties that encounter the agriculture sector ( water shortage, climate change, environment issues,…) and the difficulties to increase the production of foods.

Khaled Al-talafih

Robin Bourgeois Global Forum on Agricutlural Research, France

While the issue of food losses and waste is certainly important from a resource management standpoint, it is still largely unknown how reducing losses and wastes can contibute to reducing food insecurity. Most of the work done on food insecurity indicate that total availability is not the core problem but access to food.

My first point is that we can see some direct links between reduction of losses during production and harvest and improved access to food, first and above all for the products which are directly consumed at farm level by the farmers, and then for the products which are sold through short distribution circuits (local markets). However in the first case, when it comes to food insecure food producers, losses are very limited and suually not due to harvest or post-harvest problems but due to production losses related to climatic and biological hazards. Food insecure farmers do not lose eadible products at harvesting time or at processing time in the household. They are too poor for that. So in the first case, gains will be marginal in terms of solving food insecurity. In the seocnd case (local markets) this will depend on the purchasing power of the local consumers and on the real impact on local prices loss reduction will provide. This is a complex issue where we cannot take fo granted that some percents in loss reduction will significantly impact on local food prices. The same is true for international prices. Let's assume that food availability increases by 10% due to a drastic reduction of losses by 70% (taking losses at 30% of total production) which is somehow a formidable challenge. Will that be enough to significantly reduce the price of agricultural products at consumer level, given the fact that in many cases the price of the raw material accoutns for less than 50% or even lesser of the retail price? Will that significantly increase the number of food secure people in the world? This requires at least more investigation and this investigation needs to be locally specific, it cannot be done through partial or general equilibrium models.

My second point is about waste reduction. Again what is needed here is a theory of change or an explanation of the links between waste reduction and reduced food insecurity. So far, nobody, as far as I know, has produced logical evidence that reducing waste (which are above all a problem of high income countries and wealthier consumers) will improve the situation of food insecure people whose access to food is limited by their purchasing power. Again waste management deals with total availability of food, but it does not affect access to food for the poorest and most food insecure, except through a potential price effect which, as I already indicated above, is more than uncertain.

Finally, I am not saying that better losses and waste management is not needed. What i am pointing out here is that we should not raise too much expectations about the impact of improved waste and losses management on food insecurity. I am in favor of clarifying how food insecurity issue can be adressed through loss and waste management issue (in my opinion very little) and in assessing the efficiency of loss and waste reduction policies for the reduction of food insecurity against the efficiency of other policies directly targetting food insecurity. This should be a necessary starting point of the study before making any kind of policy recommendations to policy makers.

FEP/ NAFA Austria

Dear Colleagues:
Please find attached FEP/NAFA contributions to the HLPE e-consultation on food losses and waste.
Thanks and kind regards
Mr James Jacob Sasanya

Food Safety Specialist (Veterinary Drug Residues)
Food and Environmental Protection Section
Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture
Department of Nuclear Sciences and Applications
International Atomic Energy Agency
Vienna, Austria

Kodjo Dokojo Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fishery, Togo

Dear all,

The proposed orientation for the study focuses on food waste and gives key issue as food distribution and consumer behavior. Of course, this is true but there is another form of food waste in developing countries due to the lack of development of infrastructure and the most suitable technologies to address them.

Food consumer behavior often depends on food distribution: if the offer is higher than the demand, this contributes to food waste. This means, as the price of the food is very low, the consumer has purchased the smallest quantity that he cannot use.

Sometimes in developing countries, the agricultural production is higher than the demand. The surplus of the production is often wasted because there is no infrastructure and suitable technology for storage or conservation. Vegetables such as tomatoes, okro… and tubers such as yams are subjected to waste during the seasonal production. In rainy season, tomatoes are so produced that their cost price is ten times lower than that in the dry season. As there is no purchaser, they are often left on the ground uselessly. This situation often brings the producer not to harvest the crops.

Best regards

Kodjo Dokodjo


Lindinete Saturno Souza Saturno Brazil

Olá! sou graduanda em Nutrição.

Falar sobre desperdicio de alimento se torna até intrigante onde a fome e a falta de alimento assola o planeta, causando à varias familias ao desconforto pela insegurança alimentar.

Diante das pesquisas vários fatores contribuem para que ocorram os desperdícios de alimentos, uma das principais razões são: a falta de planejamento em toda produção, da plantação aos distribuidores, a carência de conhecimento técnico, tendo por consequência a falta de mão de obra qualificada, o uso de maquinas inadequada e ao manuseio e acondicionamento incorreto, estradas precárias e descarregamento sem nenhuma padronização.

Vejo então a necessidade de mais investimento das políticas púplicas e privadas que possam possibilitar, mas conhecimento aos pequenos agricultores para que possam criai projetos, cooperativas com tecnologias de alimento, campanhas no combate aos desperdícios, com dados oficiais da quantidades de alimentos que são desperdíçados para que a população que é consumidora tenham conhecimento e contribuam na redução dos desperdicios e venham colaborar no combate a fome e na preservação do meio ambiente, já que os desperdícios de alimentos causam lixo orgânico que são depositados a céu aberto aumentando a produção de chorume, poluindo assim a atmosfera, o solo os lenções freáticos, ocasionando impacto ambiental.

Fatima Jubran-Stengel Belgium

I believe very much that we should start teaching from childhood at school how to economise using our food as well as at home, supermarket and hospitals.

I worked in the hospital and I saw how much waste food we had every day.

I used to teach home economy in NGO and it was much more effective to start from home to make a difference only by education we can.

Selina Juul Stop Wasting Food movement Denmark (Stop Spild Af Mad), Denmark
  • We call on the United Nations to include the fight against food waste as an additional target within Goal 7 (“Ensure environmental sustainability”) and so that food waste reduction is achieved in a coordinated and agreed way and through intermediate stages.
  • We urge national governments and organisations such as the Food Standards Agency to develop practical solutions and improved communication to make it easier for consumers to get the most from the food they buy and learn how to waste less of it.
  • We urge the promotion of transparency in labels as well as more appropriate packaging solutions as to enable consumers to get the last remaining food out of the packaging.
  • We ask politicians, public institutions, authorities and the media to continuously inform the public about food waste issues through public awareness and education campaigns.

From Selina Juul, Founder, Stop Wasting Food movement Denmark (Stop Spild Af Mad) and a co-signer of Joint Declaration Against Food Waste, Brussels, 2010:

Subhash Mehta DST, India

Dear Colleagues,

The focus of this consultation, as I understand is meeting the AR4D needs of the rural poor smallholder producers to minimise waste and losses in transit.
By enabling the smallholder communities to access nutritious food produced by them at farm gate price and the growing nutritious food needs of markets in the vicinity, value adding locally to the surplus would minimise waste and transit losses in the future.
I am trailing a Russian AR4D output which could be widely replicated after it is locally adapted in each of the soils and agro climatic conditions of all developing countries. This could ensure our ability to feed the growing world populations of the future, reduce hunger, malnutrition, poverty, effects of climate change and suicides whilst improving livelihoods, net income and purchasing power.
If Russian families can manage such production in their region's very short growing season (approx. 110 days), imagine the output most parts of the developing world could manage by comparison. 
Warm regards

Russians Proving That Small-Scale, Organic Gardening Can Feed the World

When it's suggested that our food system be comprised of millions of small, organic gardens, there's almost always someone who says that it isn't realistic. And they'll quip something along the lines of, "There's no way you could feed the world's growing population with just gardens, let alone organically." Really? Has anybody told Russia this?

On a total of approximately 8 million hectares (20 million acres) of land, 16.5 million Russian families grow food in small-scale, organic gardens on their Dachas (a secondary home, often in the extra urban areas). Because growing your own food happens to be a long-lived tradition in Russia, even among the wealthy.

Based on the 1999 "Private Household Farming in Russia" Gosmkostat (State Committee for Statistics) statistics, these Dacha families produced:

  • 38% of Russia's total agricultural output
  • 41% of the livestock
  • 82% of the honey
  • 79% of the sold cattle
  • 65% of the sold sheep and goats
  • 59% of the milk
  • 31% of the sold poultry
  • 28% of the eggs
  • 91% of the potatoes
  • 76% of the vegetables
  • 79% of the fruits
In contrast, the US lawns take up more than twice the amount of land Russia's gardens do (est. 40-45 million acres).


Devinder Sharma Forum for Biotechnology&Food Security, India

Sometimes, when I am finished with my meal at a marriage ceremony and go out to throw my patal (made from leaves) in the dustbin, I watch with great regret and concern when a team of urchins would descend to look for leftovers. After these children are done away with, I find the dogs moving in. At the same time I can spot a number of crows waiting for their turn.

The clamour for food security extends beyond us, the well-to-do.

What we therefore consider as food wastage becomes essential to meet the food security needs of not-so-lucky, and also that of the animals and birds. I have always therefore wondered whether food actually goes waste. I still find my mother providing a handful of kneaded wheat to the cows every morning, and also leave aside somechapatis for the dogs after dinner. What she does it so religiously is actually aimed at ensuring food security for the animals. Indian religion teaches us compassion and to believe in sharing and caring.   

This however does not mean that food does not get waste. In America and Canada, 40 per cent food is wasted, much of it at the household level. The landfills are full of stale food, adding greenhouses gases. There are studies which have computed the food wastage in the US, including this NRDC study (How America is losing up to 40 per cent of its food from farm to fork to landfill. In fact, the other day on a TV show on FDI in retail the anchor asked me would FDI not help reduce the 40 per cent wastage we have in fruits and vegetables. My reply was that first I don't buy these figures, and secondly how can Wal-Mart curb food wastage when it has not been able to do so in America where 40 per cent food gets wasted. I think the anchor didn't even know that food wastage was so high in the US.

Nevertheless, where has this figure of 40 per cent food wastage in India come from? As a student of agriculture, some 30 years back, I remember my teachers would often quote this figure. And I find even now the same figure is being nauseatingly used again and again simply to justify FDI in retail. Prime Minister uses it, Food Minister K V Thomas too uses it, and of course the Wal-Mart Minister Anand Sharma has to use it. FICCI/CII have been playing it up. But now I find Rahul Gandhi going a step ahead and saying 60-70 per cent food gets wasted !

Sometimes back FICCI had asked McKinsey (or was it some other consulting firm?) to do a study on food wastage. It also came up with the imaginative figure of 40 per cent. Speak a lie a hundred times and it becomes a truth, isn't it?

The Central Institute of Post-Harvest Engineering & Technology (CIPHET) at Ludhiana has finally cleared the mist. Based on a nation-wide study to make quantitative assessment of harvest and post-harvest losses for 46 agricultural produces in 106 randomly selected districts in 2010, showed wastage in fruits to vary between 5.8 (in Sapota) to a maximum of 18 per cent (for Guava). In vegetables, cauliflower has the minimum loss at 6.8 per cent while tomato faces 12.4 per cent loss.  

Wastage for other items was much lower. For crops (3.9 to 6 per cent), cereals (4.3 to 6.1 per cent), pulses (4.3-6.1 per cent), oilseeds (6 per cent), meat (2.3 per cent), fish (2.9 per cent) and poultry (3.7 per cent).

These figures are much lower than the imaginative 40 per cent food wastage figure that is being tossed around. It only goes to show how we hype the crop losses to benefit the industries. This is primarily the reason why most Indian policies fail to deliver. If the foundation is faulty, based incorrect figures and estimates, the policy too will be faulty. Lots of people blame implementation to be the cause for tardy progress. I blame the wrong policies to be the primary cause for this lop-sided development.