Our award-winning reporting has moved

Context provides news and analysis on three of the world’s most critical issues:

climate change, the impact of technology on society, and inclusive economies.

Part of: Food waste
Back to package

New global standard will measure and help cut food waste

by Megan Rowling | @meganrowling | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Monday, 21 October 2013 15:41 GMT

Leftovers pictured in the 'Auf da Muehle' restaurant in the western Austrian village of Soell, June 2, 2013. Waste food from the restaurant is collected and sent weekly to a biogas plant, where it is used to help produce electricity. REUTERS/Dominic Ebenbichler

Image Caption and Rights Information

The World Resources Institute plans to bring together representatives from academia, the private sector, government and civil society groups to develop an international “Food Loss and Waste Protocol”

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Work is to start on a new global standard for measuring food loss and waste, which experts hope will help reduce the significant amount of food that does not get eaten because it is spoiled or thrown away.

The World Resources Institute (WRI) said on Monday it would bring together representatives from academia, the private sector, government and civil society groups to develop an international “Food Loss and Waste Protocol”. The first version is due to be ready by mid- to late-2015.

“Meeting the world's growing food demand is one of the great challenges we face. But we can shift this dynamic by greatly reducing food loss and waste, a critical step in ensuring that all people have enough food to meet their needs," WRI president Andrew Steer said in a statement.

"Developing a consistent, global standard to measure food loss and waste will help create a more sustainable future for people and the planet," he added.

One third of the world's food supply by weight, or one quarter measured in calories, is wasted. Around two thirds of the calorie loss in developing countries occurs immediately after harvest and in storage, whereas about half the calorie wastage in developed nations happens at the point of consumption.

The WRI estimates that halving the rate of global food loss and waste would close more than 20 percent of the gap that exists between the food available today and what is needed in 2050.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says food production will have to increase by 60 percent to feed a projected global population of more than 9 billion people by mid-century.


“The absurd reality that one third of all the food we produce is lost or wasted each year has significant impacts on people and the planet,” said Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

This waste adds 3.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases to the planet’s atmosphere each year, he noted.

FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva, who participated in a global green growth forum where the initiative was launched, said developing a protocol would provide clear measurements and indicators that could underpin guidance on how to reduce food loss and waste. Cutting it to zero would give the world additional food to feed 2 billion people, he added.

The protocol will aim to establish global standards for definitions, boundaries of what to measure, data sources and quantification methods, among other things. It will ensure international consistency, enable comparisons, and facilitate transparency by users so that countries and companies can identify how much and where food is being lost and wasted.

Measures that can help cut food waste include investing in infrastructure, such as roads and cold chains, and improving market information for farmers. At the consumer end, some retailers are taking steps like simplifying the dates they put on food packaging, which can push people to throw away food when it is still edible.

Philip Clarke, CEO of Tesco, one of the world's largest food retailers, said his company is committed to playing a leading role in reducing food waste from farm to fork.

"Having a globally consistent standard for measuring food loss and waste will play an important role in taking effective, collaborative action to achieve our goals,” he said in a statement.

The new protocol will contribute to the Think Eat Save: Reduce Your Food Print campaign led by UNEP in collaboration with FAO and other partners, as well as to FAO’s Save Food Initiative, which is now conducting case studies on food losses in specific supply chains. FAO is also beginning work on a food loss index.

The protocol will build on other programmes, including one that is developing guidance on food wastage measurement for the European Union, the WRI said.


Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.