Wednesday 26th October 2016                 Change text size:

Up to 40% of food wasted because of ‘ugliness’

Photo: Kalyan Kanuri via Flickr

Retailers can refuse edible products because these don’t satisfy shape or blemish standards criteria, a new report has found.

Up to 40% of perfectly eatable food never reaches supermarket shelves because they are aesthetically unpleasant, the study commissioned by the UK’s Global Food Security (GFS) says.

The report, named Food Waste within Global Systems, found that in addition to vegetables and fruit refused by retailers because of their supposed ugliness, the average household wastes 5kg of food weekly, of which nearly two-thirds is avoidable. This leads to economic losses of £11.8 billion, or £480 per household annually.

Tim Benton, professor of population ecology at the University of Leeds, said, “Over five million people in the UK live in deep poverty, where basic food provision is a daily challenge.

“Reducing the scale of losses and waste throughout the entire food system is a crucial step towards improving global food security.

“New approaches and new research will be instrumental in reducing waste, such as smarter packaging for retailers, improved understanding of consumer behaviour, and better weather prediction that will reduce waste at harvest.”

According to the report, it will not be possible to feed the growing population in the future without effective measures to tackle food waste.

In January, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) revealed that between 30-50% of food around the world “never reaches the human stomach”, while more recently, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) argued that inefficient food production accounts for $750 billion (£466bn) of economic loss every year and 3.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.

In August, charity Citizen Advice reported a 78% increase in enquires made to food banks across the UK.

Further reading:

Citizens Advice reports 78% increase in food bank enquiries

Tackle food waste to tackle inequality, government report says

World wasting up to half of global food

Government should be ‘reinforcing a sense of urgency’ on sustainable food

We need to use Grandma as inspiration to bring sustainability back into food

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