UN reports global food waste crisis as India battles alarming hunger—and waste

Amidst rising hunger concerns, UN report finds households wasted over 1 billion meals a day

The true scale of global food waste remains unclear (representative photo of children fighting for a plate: National Herald archives)
The true scale of global food waste remains unclear (representative photo of children fighting for a plate: National Herald archives)

NH Digital

A recent UN Environment Programme (UNEP) report sheds light on alarming global food waste statistics, revealing that households worldwide squandered over 1 billion meals daily in 2022, while 783 million people suffered from hunger and food insecurity.

Published ahead of the International Day of Zero Waste, the UNEP Food Waste Index Report 2024, co-authored with WRAP, underscores the detrimental impact of food waste on the economy, climate change, and biodiversity loss.

Despite efforts to curb waste, the report highlights persistent challenges in tracking progress, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

Key findings indicate that in 2022, 1.05 billion tonnes of food waste were generated, equating to 132 kg per capita and nearly one-fifth of all food available to consumers.

Notably, 60 per cent of food wastage occurred at the household level, emphasising the urgent need for individual and systemic interventions.

"Food waste is a global tragedy. Millions will go hungry today as food is wasted across the world," said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP.

"Not only is this a major development issue, but the impacts of such unnecessary waste are causing substantial costs to the climate and nature. The good news is we know if countries prioritise this issue, they can significantly reverse food loss and waste, reduce climate impacts and economic losses, and accelerate progress on global goals."

Since 2021, there's been a strengthening of the data infrastructure with more studies tracking food waste. Globally, the number of data points at the household level almost doubled. Nevertheless, many low- and middle-income countries continue to lack adequate systems for tracking progress to meet Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 of halving food waste by 2030, particularly in retail and food services.

Only four G20 countries — Australia, Japan, the UK, the US and the European Union — have food waste estimates suitable for tracking progress till 2030.

The report also dispels the misconception that food waste is solely a problem of affluent nations, revealing similar waste patterns across income levels.

Moreover, hotter countries tend to generate more food waste, attributing this trend to higher consumption of fresh foods and limited cold chain infrastructure.

Furthermore, food loss and waste contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity loss, with annual economic losses estimated at nearly $1 trillion.

Meanwhile, amidst revelations of a staggering 1 billion daily wasted meals globally, the reality of food wastage in India is quite grim, affecting nearly 23 crore individuals annually, reports Times of agriculture.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, India, the country squanders approximately 50,000 INR crores worth of food each year, the report added. However, independent (non-governmental) sources such as the NGO Chintan estimate it is closer to double this value!

Annually, 68.7 million tonnes of food are wasted in Indian households alone, averaging 50 kg per person, ranking second worldwide in household food wastage behind China.

A report by the National Resources Defence Council (NDRC) unveils startling statistics, revealing that 40% of food produced in the US goes uneaten, with Asia accounting for approximately 1.34 billion tonnes of wasted food, primarily attributed to India and China.

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) reports that one-third of all food produced in India is wasted or spoiled before consumption, raising concerns about deliberate waste and lack of awareness.

As India grapples with widespread wastage, urgent action is needed to address this crisis.

With inputs from IANS

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