Publication: Food Waste Along the Food Chain

Reducing food losses and food waste is attracting growing public attention at the international, regional, and national levels, and is widely acknowledged to contribute to abating interlinked sustainability challenges such as food security, climate change, and water shortage. However, the pattern and scale of food waste throughout the supply chain remains poorly understood, despite growing media coverage and public concerns in recent years. This paper takes stock of available data on food waste and explores policies related to food waste in OECD countries.

Why reduce food waste?

Food waste is seen as an obstacle to achieving food and nutrition security for the millions of undernourished around the world. Furthermore most societies attach an ethical and moral dimension to food waste.

Although, reducing food waste in medium and high income countries may not directly help tackle food insecurity in low income countries, it reduces competition on limited water, land and biodiversity resources; making these resources available for other uses. Edible food that would otherwise be wasted could be redistributed to food insecure populations in local communities in medium and high income countries, and in low income countries alike.

The consumption of water resources and land used for the production of uneaten food remains a challenge to the environment. Food waste is also a major component of waste going into municipal landfills, a significant source of methane. According to the FAO report in 2013,food that is produced but not eaten is responsible for adding 3.3 billion tons of greenhouse gases to the planet’s atmosphere that makes up food wastage as the third top emitter after the United States and China(FAO, 2013).

Another incentive is economic. Reducing food waste can increase the efficiency of the food supply chain and bring economic benefits, including lower costs for businesses and lower prices for consumers. Business examples exist where innovative production methods turned what would have otherwise been wasted into inputs to new products.

In other cases, the food manufacturing industry or the retail sector is prepared to pay for the removal of surplus food that would be otherwise wasted. New businesses are created that collect, handle and deliver this surplus to food banks. Social innovation plays an important role in initiating such social economy businesses. The importance of reducing food waste in order to increase the efficiency of the food supply chain from the social, environmental and economic points of view was repeatedly raised by participants in the OECD Food Chain Analysis Network in June 2013.

Keywords:
municipal solid waste, grain storage, food value chain, policy information, agricultural losses, food waste, data, food waste reduction, food loss
JEL Classification:
  • Q18: Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics / Agriculture / Agricultural Policy; Food Policy
  • Q53: Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics / Environmental Economics / Air Pollution; Water Pollution; Noise; Hazardous Waste; Solid Waste; Recycling
  • Q58: Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics / Environmental Economics / Government Policy

Click to Access: 

Bagherzadeh, M., M. Inamura and H. Jeong (2014), “Food Waste Along the Food Chain”, OECD Food, Agriculture and Fisheries Papers, No. 71, OECD Publishing, Paris.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/5jxrcmftzj36-en

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