Food waste

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The European Union Commission defines food waste foods that are thrown away, either because they are not needed, or because they must be thrown away by law.[1][2] There are many definitions of waste, and so there are also different definitions of food waste. The United States Environmental Protection Agency defines food waste for the United States as "Uneaten food and food preparation wastes from residences and [shops] such as grocery stores, restaurants, and produce stands, institutional cafeterias and kitchens, and industrial sources like employee lunchrooms".[3]

The definitions of food waste can vary in the following ways:

  • What food waste consists of[4]
  • how food waste is produced[3] and
  • where/what it is discarded from/generated by.[4]

The definitions are made more complex, because certain kinds of waste are defined in reference to other kinds of waste. Certain groups have not considered food waste to be waste, because it still has applications.

Sources of food waste[change | edit source]

Food production[change | edit source]

Large amounts of food waste can occur at any stage in the process of producing food.[5] In subsistence agriculture, the amounts of food waste are unknown. Very likely, very little food is wasted, because food is produced because of a need for food. In the developed world, the food industry produces food for a global marketplace demand.[6][7]

Water pours, from fields of green crop in the background, down a muddy bank towards the foreground
Severe or bad weather can cause losses of crop for all forms of outdoor agriculture

Research has been done to see where food waste occurred. The researchers looked at the food industry of the United States and found that food was wasted at the beginning of the food production.[5] From planting, crops can be subjected to pest infestations and bad weather,[8][9] which cause losses before harvest.[5] Natural forces such as temperature and rainfall are the main influences on the growth of crops. For this reason, all forms of outdoor agriculture is subject to losses beecause of these influences.[10] The use of machinery in harvesting can cause waste, as harvesters may be unable to discern between ripe and immature crops, or collect only part of a crop.[5] Food is also wasted because it does not meet certain standards or regulations for quality and appearance[11] As a result, certain crops that do not meet these standards are not harvested; left in the field, they can provide fertilizer, or food for animals.[5]

Food processing[change | edit source]

It is unknown how much food waste occurs during food processing. When food is stored, considerable amounts are wasted because of pests and microorganisms.[12] This problem occurs in countries where it is both relatively hot, and humid. These conditions boost the growth of pests and microrganisms.[13] Extreme temperature, humidity, or microoganisms also influence the nutritional value, caloric value and edibility of crops[14] and account for food waste.[15][16] The "qualitative losses" are more difficult to assess than quantitative ones.[17] More losses occur because the food is not handled correctly, or because it loses weight or volume.[5][18]

It is difficult to reduce some of the food waste produced by processing without affecting the qualty of the product.[19] Certain regulations concerning the safety of foods cause food to be wasted, before it even reaches the market.[20] Safety regulations are in place to protect the health of the consumer. They are very important, especially where foodstuffs of animal origin are processed. Contaminated products from these sources can lead to and are associated with microbiological and chemical hazards.[21][22]

Preventing health issues is more important than preventing food waste, or the reuse of foods that do not meet the standards.,[23]

References[change | edit source]

  1. "The Definition of Waste, Summary of European Court of Justice Judgments" (PDF). Defra. Updated 2009. http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/waste/topics/pdf/ECJCaseLaw20090209.pdf. Retrieved 2009-08-20.
    "Whether it is waste must be determined ... by comparison with the definition set out in Article 1(a) of Directive 75/442, as amended by Directive 91/156, that is to say the discarding of the substance in question or the intention or requirement to discard it"
  2. "Council Directive 75/442/EEC of 15 July 1975 on waste". EUR-Lex. 1975. http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:31975L0442:EN:HTML. Retrieved 2009-08-20.
    "For the purposes of this Directive: (a) "waste" means any substance or object which the holder disposes of or is required to dispose of pursuant to the provisions of national law in force;" (Amended by Directive 91/156)
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Terms of Environment: Glossary, Abbreviations and Acronyms (Glossary F)". United States Environmental Protection Agency. 2006. http://www.epa.gov/OCEPAterms/fterms.html. Retrieved 2009-08-20.
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Glossary". Eastern Metropolitan Regional Council. http://www.emrc.org.au/glossary.asp. Retrieved 2009-08-25.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 Kantor, p. 3.
  6. Waters, Tony (2007). The Persistence of Subsistence Agriculture: life beneath the level of the marketplace. Lexington Books. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=H1rHCaNFlIwC&lpg=PP1&ots=tc8ofNpnEF&dq=The%20Persistence%20of%20Subsistence%20Agriculture%3A%20life%20beneath%20the%20level%20of%20the%20marketplace&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q=&f=false. Retrieved 2009-08-21.
  7. "Food Security". Scientific Alliance. 2009. http://www.gaia-technology.com/sa/newsletters/newsletter.cfm?newsletterID=136&ID=0. Retrieved 2009-08-21.
    "… there is certainly a lot of waste in the system … Unless, that is, we were to go back to subsistence agriculture …"
  8. Savary, Serge; Laetitia Willocquet, Francisco A. Elazegui, Nancy P. Castilla, and Paul S. Teng (March 2000). Rice pest constraints in tropical Asia: Quantification of yield losses due to rice pests in a range of production situations. doi:10.1094/PDIS.2000.84.3.357?cookieSet=1. http://apsjournals.apsnet.org/doi/pdf/10.1094/PDIS.2000.84.3.357?cookieSet=1. Retrieved 2009-08-21.
  9. Rosenzweig, Cynthia; Ana Iglesias, X.B. Yang, Paul R. Epstein, and Eric Chivian (2001). "Climate change and extreme weather events, Implications for food production, plant diseases, and pests". Global Change and Human Health 2. http://www.springerlink.com/content/8frmxfdr3l592bej/fulltext.pdf?page=1. Retrieved 2009-08-21. "(Free preview, full article available for purchase)".
  10. Haile, Menghestab ((Published online) 24 October 2005). "Weather patterns, food security and humanitarian response in sub-Saharan Africa". The Royal Society 360: 2169. doi:10.1098/rstb.2005.1746. http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/360/1463/2169.full.pdf+html. Retrieved 2009-08-21.
    "… frequent extreme weather event such as droughts and floods that reduce agricultural outputs resulting in severe food shortages."
  11. "Wonky fruit & vegetables make a comeback!". European Parliament. 2009. http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/public/story_page/054-57764-201-07-30-909-20090706STO57744-2009-20-07-2009/default_en.htm. Retrieved 2009-08-21.
  12. Hall, p. 1.
  13. "Loss and waste: Do we really know what is involved?". Food and Agriculture Organization. http://www.fao.org/DOCREP/004/AC301E/AC301e02.htm. Retrieved 2009-08-23.
  14. Lacey, J. (1989). "Pre- and post-harvest ecology of fungi causing spoilage of foods and other stored products". Journal of Applied Bacteriology Symposium Supplement. http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/fulltext/121369579/PDFSTART. Retrieved 2009-08-22.
  15. Hall, p. 25.
  16. "Post-harvest system and food losses". Food and Agriculture Organization. http://www.fao.org/DOCREP/004/AC301E/AC301e03.htm. Retrieved 2009-08-23.
  17. Kader, p. 1.
  18. Hall, p. 18.
  19. Oreopoulou, p. 3.
  20. Kantor, pp. 3-4.
  21. (PDF) Environmental, Health and Safety Guidelines for Meat Processing. 2007. p. 2. http://www.ifc.org/ifcext/enviro.nsf/AttachmentsByTitle/gui_EHSGuidelines2007_MeatProcessing/$FILE/Final+-+Meat+Processing.pdf. Retrieved 2009-08-29.
  22. "Specific hygiene rules for food of animal origin". Europa. 2009. http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/food_safety/veterinary_checks_and_food_hygiene/f84002_en.htm. Retrieved 2009-08-29.
    "Foodstuffs of animal origin … may present microbiological and chemical hazards"
  23. Dalzell, Janet M. (2000). Food industry and the environment in the European Union: practical issues and cost implications. Springer. p. 300. ISBN 0834217198. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=3j-xV3i5iY4C&pg=PA300&lpg=PA300&dq#v=onepage&q=&f=false. Retrieved 2009-08-29.