Food Waste VS Food Loss

Food waste is food that is intended for human consumption that is wasted and lost and can occur anywhere throughout the entire supply chain from farm stage to harvest to households. 

Two types of food waste are apparent:

Food loss and food waste.

The main difference is when and why food is thrown away.

Food loss occurs before it even reaches you, caused by accidental issues during growing, storing, processing, and getting it to stores.

Food waste, on the other hand, happens after you get the food – it’s when you intentionally decide not to eat something that’s still good to eat. Therefore, is a result of conscious decisions. However, both lead to social and environmental problems. [8]

EU definition of food waste:  «FAO has worked towards the harmonisation of these notions, and ‘food loss’ is usually considered as occurring along the food supply chain from harvest/slaughter/catch up to, but not including, the retail level. ‘Food waste’, on the other hand, occurs at the retail and consumption levels. Food diverted to other economic uses, such as animal feed, is not considered quantitative food loss or waste. Similarly, inedible parts should not be considered as food waste.»  [9]

Believe it or not, globally, about 14 percent of food (which is worth a huge $400 billion!) doesn’t make it from the farm to the store, and an extra 17 percent gets wasted by stores and people like us. That’s a big problem we need to tackle. Food loss and food waste negatively impact food security and nutrition and significantly contribute to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, environmental pollution, degradation of natural ecosystems and biodiversity loss.

This issue has become extremely important around the world, and a lot of experts explain how cutting down on food loss and waste isn’t just about saving food, it’s also about achieving big goals like making sure everyone has enough to eat (Goal No. 2) and being responsible about how we use resources (Goal No. 12), according to the United Nations’ plans (2022).

Measuring food waste poses considerable challenges due to the limited availability of data from the food industry and the absence of universally accepted definitions for food waste, food loss, and food surplus. This issue is further complicated, as highlighted by variations in how these concepts are operationalized by institutions across different scales, sectors, and contexts. The definitions of these terms can shift depending on the specific location and the objectives in play. In contrast to food loss during production, post-harvest, and processing, as well as food waste in households, food service, and retail, food surplus is often characterized as any food within the food system that can readily be redirected for human consumption.

According to the FAO, measuring waste solely by weight, typically using tones as the reporting units, has its limitations as it overlooks the economic value of various commodities. This approach can potentially lead to an overemphasis on low-value products simply because they are heavier. In terms of weight, a tone of grain is equivalent to a tone of fruit or a tone of meat. However, when it comes to crafting policies aimed at reducing food waste, it becomes crucial to also consider the economic worth of these commodities. To address this issue, the FAO and the UN Environment Programme have collaboratively developed two distinct indices, namely the Food Loss Index (FLI) and the Food Waste Index (FWI). [10]

EU Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste [11]