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Half of all food produced ends up as waste, says IMechE

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Institution calls for urgent global action in food industry

A new report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers says that as much as two billion tonnes of food produced around the world is never consumed by humans.

The report, 'Global Food; Waste Not, Want Not' found that inadequate infrastructure and storage facilities, overly strict sell-by dates, supermarket offers and consumer demand for aesthetically pleasing food are just some of the reasons behind the alarmingly large amounts of waste.

The IMechE says that by improving processes and infrastructure, as well as changing consumer mindsets, the food industry could produce up to 100% more food to feed the world's growing population.

With UN predictions suggest that the world population could reach almost ten billion by 2075, the Institution calls for action sooner rather than later.

Three key report findings:

  • Between 30% and 50% (1.2-2bn tonnes) of food produced never reaches a human stomach
  • 30% of vegetable crops in UK are not harvested due to their physical appearance
  • 550bn m3 of water is wasted globally to grow crops that never reach consumers

Three key report recommendations:

  • The UN Food and Agriculture Organization needs to work with the international engineering community to ensure governments of developed countries put in place programmes that transfer knowledge and technology to newly developing countries
  • Governments of rapidly developing countries need to incorporate waste minimisation thinking into transport infrastructure and storage plans
  • Governments of developed nations ought to devise and implement policies that change consumer expectations and discourage retailers from wasteful practices

For a full, in-depth news story on the report see the January issue of Professional Engineering magazine.

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