FAO Liaison Office in New York

UN brings food loss and waste into focus


The 74th United Nations General Assembly has designated 29 September as the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste, recognizing the fundamental role that sustainable food production plays in promoting food security and nutrition.  The observance aims at raising awareness on the importance of the food loss and waste issue, and promoting global efforts towards resolving it.

Considering the world’s growing population, the United Nations (UN) see an urgent need in addressing the large quantities of food lost and wasted around the globe, stressing the risks implied for climate change, agriculture sustainability, human livelihoods, and food supplies. Cutting back on food loss and waste is also stated in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and specifically Target 12.3, which calls for halving the per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels, as well as reducing food losses along production and supply chains.

In adopting the resolution, the UN referenced The State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA) 2019, a flagship publication by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), which frames food loss as the decrease in quantity or quality of food along the food supply chain. On the other hand, according to SOFA, food waste occurs at retail and consumption level. It’s important to note that food diverted to other economic uses (e.g. animal feed) is not considered as food loss or waste nor are inedible parts of food.

With its work, FAO provides guidance for policy interventions, making a business and economic case with profit incentives to reduce food loss and waste, and then further expand this rationale to address concerns about food insecurity. “I frequently wonder how we can allow food to be thrown away when more than 820 million people in the world continue to go hungry every day”, said FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu.

According to the 2016 Food Loss Index, 14% of the food produced globally was lost, most of it being roots and oil-bearing crops. The leading causes for food loss are generally related to inadequate harvesting time, climatic conditions, inadequate storage conditions, and challenges in marketing produce. Food waste is brought upon by limited shelf life of products, the need for food products to meet aesthetic standards, poor purchase and meal planning, and poor in-home storing.