Roughly one third of the food produced for human consumption each year is lost or wasted, according to the United Nations’ (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Worldwide, this equates to a loss of US$680bn (€518bn) in industrialised countries, and US$310bn in developing areas.
In Denmark, 700,000 tonnes of food are wasted or lost each year, equating to more than DKK11bn (€1.4bn) annually. The food industry is responsible for 133,000 tonnes of this food waste, with Danish households wasting more than 260,000 tonnes per year.
In an effort to address food waste and food loss across these value chains, Denmark’s Ministry of Environment and Food has established a think tank, comprising representatives from authorities, companies, organisations and researchers.
“The overall purpose of the think tank is to ensure collaboration across the entire food product chain and to ensure that initiatives targeting reduction and prevention of food loss and waste are founded on specialist knowledge,” head of secretariat for the Think Tank on Prevention of Food Loss and Food Waste Signe Skibstrup Blach told FoodNavigator.
Environment and food minister Jakob Ellemann-Jensen has appointed seven board members to lead the think tank. Approximately 35 members from industry, government and academia will also join the project.
“[Combatting] food waste and food loss [presents] an important task that the new board must solve together with other members. I am sure that the new team can bring the challenging agenda forward and develop new solutions that can be used both nationally and internationally and make Denmark stand out even more clearly on the international scene.
“It is absolutely crucial that we do what we can to change our production and consumption of foodstuffs so that it becomes more sustainable,” stated Ellemann-Jensen.
The board will be led by Carlsberg chairman Flemming Besenbacher, who similarly highlighted the urgency of addressing sustainability challenges related to the planet and its resources.
“I will work to ensure that we in Denmark move significantly on this agenda and contribute to innovative solutions that help to secure the world’s food systems,” said Besenbacher.
SDG 12.3: A common goal
According to the Ministry, the think tank’s alignment with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will make Denmark a ‘pilot country’ for food waste and food loss.
The UN SDGs make up an intergovernmental agenda of 17 goals. Targets in the food sector’s remit include ending hunger, promoting health and education, climate change, production consumption, economic growth and gender equality.
The target for UN SDG 12.3 aims to halve per capital global food waste as the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains – including post-harvest losses – by 2030.
“In Denmark the think tank will operate a voluntary agreement on a joint reduction target for the entire food product value chain from farm to fork. The joint reduction target is aligned with SDG 12.3,” explained Skibstrup Blach.
For think tank members, this means recruiting between 20 and 30 companies and organisations in 2019, with plans to expand coverage from 2020.
“The think tank will focus on reduction and prevention of food loss and food waste along the entire value chain, from farm to fork. This includes primary production, food industry, supermarkets, restaurants and other service sectors, and households etc.,” Skibstrup Blach told us, adding that these industries will benefit from the government-led project in a variety of ways.
“The think tank will strive to help industry by improving data collection; collect and generate specialist knowledge, research and best practice for civil society, businesses and public authorities; and manage projects – including the voluntary agreement with parties from the food product value chain to target SDG 12.3.”