Seven Shocking Facts about Food Waste

Food waste is a problem for all of us. The effects of food waste are felt across the world, both through the global hunger crisis and through its impact on the environment. The effects of food waste can even be felt by our wallets, as every piece of food in the trash is one that can’t (or at least shouldn’t) be eaten. As a corporation in the food supply chain, we have a responsibility to do all we can reduce food waste. But what is food waste exactly?

Food waste is when we throw out food that is still fit for consumption . It also happens at the retail level, when food is discarded at grocery stores and restaurants. By contrast, food loss is when food is unintentionally lost during production.

Food producers know that some food loss is unavoidable. We can plan for it and try to improve upon it, but there’s no surefire way to eliminate food loss completely. As a result, food producers often just accept food loss and food waste as an unavoidable expense that can’t be helped without ever stopping to consider the magnitude of the problem. We can’t afford to ignore the food waste problem anymore. Here are seven shocking facts about the global impact of food waste:

Worldwide, 1.3 billion tons of food are wasted every year. This amounts to US $1 trillion dollars of wasted or lost food.1 1.3 billion tons of food is enough to feed everyone in the world who goes hungry – four times over.2

An estimated 25 – 40% of food grown, processed and transported in the US will never be consumed.3 This statistic speaks more to food loss. It’s amazing and terrifying how small things like a damaged case of product, an incomplete harvest or food spoilage adds up to create so much waste.

25% of all freshwater in the U.S. is used to produce food that is thrown away.3 In addition to the obvious waste of food, we also waste an enormous amount of water on the food we don’t eat. This is especially true for livestock, as they require huge amounts of water to nurture their growth. Though it’s not remembered, every bit of protein that we lose is costing us a lot of water.

The United States is the number one country in the world that wastes food. Close behind are Australia and Denmark, followed by Switzerland and Canada.3 North American and European countries have more access to food, so it’s natural that more would be wasted in these places. However, that also means these countries need to shoulder the burden and show leadership when it comes to curbing the food waste problem.

Thirty-one percent of the food available at the retail level ends up lost or wasted, corresponding to 60 million tons of food.1 For retailers, this should be concerning. Any food lost or wasted, is food they cannot be sold to consumers. For this reason, retailers prioritize products with longer shelf-lives, which reduce the amount of product that needs to be discarded.

A European or North American consumer wastes almost 100 kilograms of food annually, which is more than his or her weight (70 kilograms.)1 Consumer waste is a significant part of the food waste problem. Every day, consumers throw out thousands of dollars’ worth of perfectly good food because they’re confused by “Best By” dates or they have misconceptions about what spoiled food looks like.

Food waste generates 3.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide,  which accelerates global climate change.1 As a comparison, the amount of carbon dioxide generated by the entire world, was about 41 billion tons in 2015.5 That puts food waste at about 8% of CO2 emissions globally, and carbon dioxide emissions are currently increasing by about 2 percent year over year.5 Think of the difference we could make by reducing food waste by even a small amount.

While we can’t address all of the problems that contribute to food waste, we can help reduce spoilage post-production by creating products with the longest shelf-lives possible. High pressure processing, or HPP, is one of the newest, most effective technologies to help with this problem as it can double the shelf-life of foods and beverages without the addition of artificial preservatives or large amounts of sodium, creating a longer-shelf life product with a cleaner label.

Chairman’s Foods once froze all of their product because they were concerned about shelf-life. They worked with Universal to implement HPP and have since moved 65% of their product to refrigerators instead of the freezer. They can no extend the shelf life of their products without a freezer, maintaining quality while trimming their food waste expenses..

This example only just scratches the surface of how HPP can help with the food waste dilemma. If you would like to learn more about food waste, high pressure processing and how HPP can improve your products and cut down on your food waste costs, sign up for our webinar, HPP and Food Waste: Get Tasted not Wasted, hosted by Universal Pasteurization: