By Sharon Atieno

Households remain to be the largest contributor of food waste, followed by food service and retail respectively, a new United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report reveals.

According to the Food Waste Index report, of the 931 million tonnes of food waste generated in 2019, 61% was from households, 26% from food service and 19% from retail.

It also reveals that the global average of 74kg per person of food wasted annually is similar from lower-middle income to high-income countries.

This, the report notes, cancels the notion which concentrated on consumer food waste in developed countries and food production, storage and transportation losses in developing countries.

Further, the UNEP report finds that there is an uneven distribution of data between regions as well as country income groups.

“Key data gaps exist at the household level in low-income countries, small island states, Central Asia and Northern Africa, and at the food service and retail levels more broadly (in low-income, lower middle-income and upper middle-income countries),” the report reads.

“Multiple studies were found at the household level in all European regions, the Americas, most Asian regions, Australia and New Zealand, and Sub-Saharan Africa.”

At the country level, the report finds that there is no robust data to show how much food is wasted or lost, which sectors (parts of the supply chain) where there is most waste and what type of food have the largest impact.

Only 14 countries have household food waste data compatible with the Food Waste Index while only nine countries in the food service sector and ten in the retail sector have measured food waste properly as outlined in the report.

“Without this information, governments, businesses and other organizations struggle to make a case to take action, and lack the information to prioritize their efforts,” the report notes.

According to the report, the lack of data makes it difficult to track progress of the sustainable development goal (SDG) 12.3 which aims to halve food waste and reduce food loss by 2030.

“It is fitting that this report is being launched just after the fifth United Nations Environment Assembly, which at its previous meeting urged Member States to establish mechanisms for measuring food loss and waste, and requested support in providing technical assistance that would allow countries to make measure and make progress,” Inger Andersen, UNEP Executive Director said in the Foreword, noting that the report is a first step in meeting the request.

“In April, we will establish regional food waste working groups in Africa, Asia Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, and West Asia to support member states in developing food baselines and strategies – bringing the report to life. The report is also part of UNEP’s offer to the UN Food Systems Summit process, with the aim of encouraging the widespread adoption of a Target-Measure-Act approach to food waste reduction.”