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Food waste vs food loss

Did you know that one third of all the food produced every year is wasted?

It’s a shocking amount, and it’s not just terrible for the planet, but it’s terrible for food security too - especially knowing that the world’s population will reach over 9 billion by 2050.

That’s why it needs to be dealt with quickly and efficiently.

But, to eliminate the issues threatening food security once and for all, we need to dissect the challenges so we can tackle them appropriately.

The two main problems, then, are food loss and food waste - cutting back on these two is sure to put us in a much better position when it comes to food security.

Both these issues have a number of different causes, and the statistics on it vary greatly between high, middle and low income countries, so it’s an issue that the whole world needs to help solve.

What is food waste and food loss?

Quite often, these terms are used interchangeably, but they’re not the same at all, and they actually impact the economy very differently.

Food loss tends to happen if there are issues when produce is being grown or stored, or even while it’s being processed or distributed.

Usually unintentional, food loss often happens because of an agricultural process or limitation in storage, infrastructure, packaging, or even marketing, and it will cause an item to get lost, spilled or spoiled, or to become bruised or wilted.

Food waste, however, tends to happen more at the retailer’s or consumer’s end.

It’s often produce of high quality that’s perfectly good to eat, but doesn’t end up getting used because it’s just thrown away.

Similarities between food waste and food loss

Obviously, both food waste and food loss mean we have less produce available, meaning they threaten our food security.

They also damage the economy and the environment, and human well-being all over the world - their impact is felt by everyone - so they both desperately need preventing.

Differences between food waste and food loss

Obviously the factors that cause these issues are different, but food waste is a problem we see in more developed countries, while food loss tends to happen in more developing countries.

Impact of food waste and food loss in the MENA region

The impact of these issues in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has only been made worse recently because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are so many obstacles to overcome in the region’s fight against food insecurity too, from cultural attitudes, to lack of technology, and misinformation.

Religious periods can be tricky as well - Ramadan, for example, sees the amount of waste increase to 60%.

That’s not to say that efforts aren’t being made to reduce food waste and loss in this area, though.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia are great examples - they’ve committed to cutting food waste and loss by 50% before 2030, and have already put initiatives in place to achieve this.

When the right strategies are used to educate consumers, encourage startups, and get support from the government for regulation, technology and investment, food waste can be reduced significantly.

Food loss, then, needs stakeholders to help improve the supply chain.

Only then can we eliminate food insecurity and help make the world a better place.


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