The report, Global Food: Waste Not, Want Not, from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, found that purchasers rejecting crops for cosmetic reasons was responsible for 1.6m tonnes of wasted food every year, while consumers threw away 30-50% of the food they bought.
“It is estimated that 30–50% (or 1.2–2 bIllIon tonnes) of all food produced on the planet is lost before reaching a human stomach,” Dr Tim Fox, head of energy and environment at the Institution, said in the report.
The report recommended that governments in developed nations should “devise and implement policy that changes consumer expectations.”
“These should discourage retailers from wasteful practices that lead to the rejection of food on the basis of cosmetic characteristics, and losses in the home due to excessive purchasing by consumers.”
By contrast, in the developing world, losses were mostly in the first part of the supply chain, due to inefficient harvesting, inadequate local transportation and poor infrastructure.
The Institution recommends that the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) should work to ensure engineering knowledge, design know-how and suitable technology is transferred from developed to developing nations.
“This will help improve produce handling in the harvest, and immediate post-harvest stages of food production,” it said.
In addition, governments of rapidly developing countries should ensure waste minimisation strategies are built into new projects, it said.
Dr Fox said: “The amount of food wasted and lost around the world is staggering. This is food that could be used to feed the world’s growing population – as well as those in hunger today. It is also an unnecessary waste of the land, water and energy resources that were used in the production, processing and distribution of this food.”
The full report is available here (PDF).