London: If you want to contribute towards curbing food waste, something as simple as checking the fridge prior to shopping can have a large impact, suggests a Danish expert on the food sector.
Overall, one third of the world’s food is lost or wasted, and this has serious environmental implications while contributing directly to global warming, Jessica Aschemann-Witzel from Aarhus University in Denmark pointed out in an article published in the journal Science.
“We know more or less the extent of the problem, and what are the causes of food waste – the next step is action, and here research is needed to help identify what is most effective, so that policy makers know what to focus on,” Aschemann-Witzel said.
But food waste has different causes in different parts of the world. In relatively poor countries, it is an upstream problem, and most waste takes place in the production phase due to, for example, sup-optimal methods of harvesting and transportation.
The solution in these cases includes building better infrastructure through transfer of knowledge and technology.
In the developed countries, downstream factors are more relevant, and consumer choices are much more important.
Up to 30 percent of household food ends in the bin, often due to factors such as cultural norms that prescribe offering plenty of food to guests, misperceptions about food safety and exaggerated disgust.
At the same time, however, there is a widespread feeling that throwing away food is wrong, giving cause for hope.
“The fact that consumers and stakeholders alike perceive food waste as obviously unethical makes it a good starting point for individual consumers to become engaged in sustainability,” Aschemann-Witzel said.
There is no single solution to the problem of food waste, but a variety of practically feasible steps at the micro-level can go a long way towards ensuring greater sustainability.
For example, something as simple as checking the fridge prior to shopping can have a large impact in the aggregate, she noted.
In addition, governments can contribute by changing overly strict food safety laws, while producers can introduce innovative packaging solutions that allow the withdrawal of small amounts of food while the rest remains fresh, Aschemann-Witzel noted.
Changes designed for the developed world are likely to have an even bigger impact in future, as countries such as Brazil, India and China become more urbanised and dietary preferences change.
In such countries, Aschemann-Witzel argued, food waste volumes are likely to increasingly shift to the consumption stage.