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UN Study Says World Wastes One Billion Tons of Food a Year

Planning on tossing that slightly-bruised banana or uneaten plate of buffet goodies? You might want to think again.

According to CNN Money, the United Nations says about 1.3 billion tons of food is lost or wasted every year -- about roughly one third of all the food produced for human consumption.

Consumers in rich nations waste a combined 222 million tons a year, says a commissioned report by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization. That's about as much as all the food produced in sub-Saharan Africa.

Who's to blame and what can we do about it? Read on.

According to the report, there's a difference between food loss and food waste. Food losses occur during the production, processing and distribution of food. Food waste, on the other hand, is mainly due to retailers and consumers throwing out perfectly edible food.

Who's throwing it out? The report puts much of the blame on retailers in rich nations that pitch food when it doesn't look appealing (won't sell) and on marketing tactics in the food industry like "all-you-can-eat" and "buy-one-get-one-free," which may encourage folks to purchase more than they need.

And food isn't the only resource being wasted. According to the UN report, throwing away so much food also squanders water, land, energy, and labor.

What to do? The study recommends the following:
- Rich countries should educate consumers about the consequences of food waste.
- Retailers need to relax quality standards and sell produce grown closer to home.
- Retailers need to make better use of food that would otherwise be thrown out (like donating it to charity.)
- Consumers in rich countries need to plan food purchases more carefully and make sure to consume perishables before the expiration date.

"Perhaps one of the most important reasons for food waste at the consumption level in rich countries is that people simply can afford to waste food," the UN report states.

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Laura Hahnefeld
Contact: Laura Hahnefeld

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