Unbelievable Food Waste in the Advanced Countries!

[First posted on Feb 2017, see updates below]

It is really sad to see lot of developing world suffer from hunger and poverty while tremendous amount of food gets wasted in developed world! Lets us briefly look at the key facts for USA, from savethefood.com, you might have seen the ads recently on tv:

  • 40% of the food gets wasted
  • Each of the Americans throw away 300 lbs of food every year
  • 90% of the Americans throw away food too soon
  • Food is the #1 thing in American landfills and contributes more to climate pollution than all of the cars in Georgia

Savethefood.com also presents the wastage in terms of water that gets used in producing the food. And that is a great way to get a sense & scale of the waste. We all know about water scarcity so it is easy to see why wastage of food is beyond the food wastage, it impacts the precious natural resources along with the other resources, like time, labor & energy etc.

Now let us see some of those numbers, water wasted – measured in shower minutes:

  • 1 lb of bananas = 42 min
  • 1 lb of rice = 60 min
  • 1 lb of chicken = 104 min
  • 1 lb of beef = 370 min

These numbers are really unbelievable and scary! Clearly the population needs awareness and education, as they are not just losing their hard earned dollars but also have a negative global impact.

The stat that 90% of households throw away food too soon is a great example of how much education is needed. Btw, the dates on the packaging are there to guarantee the quality of the food..that doesn’t mean it becomes inedible. We have to educate the masses and the ad campaign is a good start.

Now, imagine a back of the envelope idea to solve this particular problem. I believe, people buy food and store them and forget about some of those foods as days go on. So, if we alert the people about the food that is about to reach its best-buy etc date, they will be able to plan and consume accordingly. We can create an app to track the items. In the grocery store when we buy, the receipt prints a QR code which you will scan with the app and app retrieves (from app’s service url) all the items that you bought with best-buy dates! This needs for the manufacturers to update the bar-codes to contain the date information and the grocery check out software to integrate with app’s service. Once the items are in your app, the app will alert consumers (with some form of consumer preferred setting) and consumers will never miss the items!  Yes, I know, it will need some changes along the supply chain and processes but technically quite easy to implement. Some brave entrepreneur can take this on.

And the waste happens not just in households but in lots of other places (along the food supply chain). For example: Grocery chains buy only good looking fruits & vegetables and the growers throw away the rest! Restaurants throw away the unsold food at the end of the day! People have come up with creative ways to solve these challenges, for example: Ingloriuous F&V in Europe is an example to sell the not-so perfect looking fruits & veggies, which was very successful and everybody wins. Regarding the restaurant food waste, I do know a couple charities in various locales, that pick up the unsold food and distribute to the hungry. These are great solutions but still not quite widely adopted, not quite sure why? Perhaps a national organization has to evolve to deliver on these ideas, similar to what Goodwill does for clothes.

I hope…one day we will have sensors that can tell us whether the food is edible or not and alert you before it goes waste! 🙂

Update (Jan 10, 2020)- We found, from the recent Pulse campaign, this #ProWoSo is a popular one!

Update (Sep 20, 2022)- Latest EU food waste estimates put it at 153Million Tons, per year! Even worse to note that is more than what EU imports!? 🙁

[Image Credit: Thanks to Viscious-Speed via Pixabay]

About Krishna Vuppala 54 Articles
I am passionate about technology & innovation with a mission to 'Accelerating Global Innovation'. I believe, that there exists an "innovation gap" and the current global innovation efforts to solve real meaningful challenges are moving at a slower pace! The reason, I believe, is lack of awareness of those challenges to the global talent! This blog is part of that journey to spread the word on the Problems (that are) Worth Solving! #ProWoSo


  1. I Like Unbelievable Food Wastage in Advanced-countries #ProWoSo.
    Food is the essential basic need for every living being without which we cannot sustain. To what extent the technology may grow we still need food to live our lives. Sadly, many of us don’t know that the food crisis may occur in the near future due to unnecessary wastage, lack of resources, increase in population and due to many other reasons.

    There were many reports given by many organizations to bring out the problem of food wastage into the limelight. These reports prove that food wastage is the problem worth solving as enormous quantities of food are thrown away every day. These reports have identified that global food waste is a far-reaching problem with tremendous financial, ethical and environmental costs. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), about one-third of global food production (around 30 to 40%), is lost or wasted annually. The amount of food lost or wasted is more than enough to feed all the millions of hungry people in the world.

    Generally, if we look deep into the production cycle of food, food is wasted at multiple levels of its processing before reaching the consumer’s table. In low-income countries like Africa, loss occurs more often in the earlier stages. Conversely, in High-income like North America, 32 percent is lost in earlier stages, and 61 percent is wasted by consumers. This is the abundant amount that is getting wasted in advanced countries.

    Consumer habits hold much of the blame, but food waste occurs all along the latter half of the supply chain with distributors, retailers, and restaurants as well. This is because they attract people with offers, encourage the consumer to buy more than they can eat and the leftovers are thrown away leading to wastage of food.

    According to the European Commission, an estimated 10 percent of the EU’s 88 million tons of food is wasted annually and are mostly due to date labeling such as “use by”, “Best before” etc. This is causing the customers a kind of fear which makes them throw away the food causing more wastage of food.

    But one should understand that when edible items are discarded, it’s not just food that is wasted. Consider all the resources required to bring food from the farm to your table: water for irrigation, land for planting, and fuel for powering harvest and transport vehicles. This leads to a lack of resources that can be renewable and non-renewable. It is known that twenty-eight percent of the world’s agricultural area is used to produce food that is ultimately lost or wasted each year. These days’ people only are unable to find a place to live. If the agricultural land is being wasted this way then we cannot even estimate the risk that could happen in the future.

    One day there would be a situation where people will rob food for a living if the food wastage problem is not taken seriously. This needs to be solved as early as possible before it becomes as worst that we cannot estimate the effects.

  2. The importance of food is obvious and essential. Healthy food provides us the nutrients and energy to develop and grow, be active and healthy, to move, play, work, think and learn and wastage of food is a serious problem.

  3. I like this, #ProWoSo.
    Food wastage is a growing global crisis that is affecting the physical health of the earth and the population inhabiting the entire planet. Recent estimates postulate that food wasted in developed countries; like Europe and the United States can feed the whole continent in more than three times. Two out of 8 children in the United States live in homes that cannot access enough food. Food wastage is a serious environmental concern facing the whole continent. To determine the way out of this disaster is not easy. There is a need for sacrifice and co-operation from various agencies to address this issue. All the food is wasted and definitely it can be avoided. The food wastage is a global problem. The figures pertaining to food waste all over the world amount to about 1.3 billion tons per year. This is an alarming figure which denotes how much food is wasted despite wide spread food shortage. All countries have the almost equal share on this food waste. They only differ on the source of food waste. Rich countries throw away food either because of rejection or because of household wastes. On the other hand, developing countries lose their food because they do not have the equipment and resources for improving their crops and preserving its freshness. Also, climate change is taking its toll on the food products. This problem has to be addressed as soon as possible and help solve food crisis.

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