As the contrast between people with plenty and those in poverty continues to grow, new research has revealed that as much as 50% of all food produced across the world is wasted. With food prices rising and the global population increasing, the producers of the study have warned that more must be done to bring a halt to such practices.
In their study, “Global Food : Waste Not, Want not” the UK’s Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IME) found that around 30% of all crops produced in the UK never make it to consumers plates due to public expectations of attractive food as well as poor agricultural practices. In addition the report revealed that half of all food purchased by European and American shoppers is thrown away. Strict “use by” dates were said to one of the key reasons for this startling level of waste which is especially unwelcome with food becoming increasingly expensive.
The Government’s most recent annual Family Food survey found that on average, UK households purchased 4.2 per cent less food in 2011 than in 2007 but spent 12 per cent more. Predictably, the poorest are those hit hardest by price rises. The poorest 20% spent one pound in every six on food in comparison to the UK average of one in every nine.
Prices are expected to rise further in 2013 thanks to the extreme weather conditions the UK experienced last year; devastating drought during the spring followed by heavy flood inducing rain. As a result, many crops were ruined and farmers were unable to plant as much as they wanted for 2013.
Mark Price, managing director of Waitrose told the sun that UK consumers should expect “massive” prices rises due to the unprecedented weather : “We’re seeing input food inflation of around 3 to 3.5pc, but we expect it go up to as much as five (per cent)”.
“In some commodities, the increases will be massive,” he added.
“It’s bread, vegetables, all produce. The apple crop was down 20 to 30 per cent so apple prices have to go up. You have only seen the tip of the iceberg,” Mr Price concluded.
Among the key issues raised by the IME’s report was the misuse of resources, especially water. The group estimate the 550 trillion litres of water are wasted on crops which are never harvested and that 60-100% more food could be produced by eliminating losses and waste.
Dr Tim Fox, Head of Energy and Environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers emphasised the importance of bringing an end to such waste;
“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.
According to United Nations statistics, 870 million people are “chronically malnourished” and 2.6 million children die each year from hunger related diseases. Further 780 million people lack access to clean water. While as individuals we may not have the power to bring such suffering to an end, we can put a stop to our part in this culture of waste and encourage others to do the same.