A recent brief released by the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition discusses two huge factors contributing to unhealthy eating: food loss and food waste. According to the World Health Organization, a poor diet has been linked to 20% of deaths worldwide. Due to high levels of food loss and waste, especially perishable nutrient-rich foods, up to three billion people consume poor-quality diets that lead to micronutrient malnutrition as well as increased levels of nutrients. ‘obesity. The Global Panel, an independent international group of leaders from around the world, is committed to making healthy, safe and high-quality diets affordable and accessible to people around the world.
Food losses in the supply chain limit the availability of nutritious food to consumers and increase the costs of products that ultimately reach the market, creating significant risks to public health. Reducing food waste, especially in retail stores and consumers, can also increase the availability of nutritious foods. With a host of illnesses and illnesses linked to unhealthy diets, access to nutritious food is essential to ensure that enough nutrients, and not just enough calories, are available to feed a growing population. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, approximately 1.3 billion tonnes of food is lost or wasted each year in global food systems. The Global Panel’s summary describes the main areas of intervention for urgent action to address these critical issues.
“Food loss and waste have become major obstacles to achieving food and nutrition security goals,” said Emmy Simmons, senior non-resident advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on the Security Project. World Food and Global Panel Member, for Food Tank. “Although not all food loss and waste can be avoided, actions that contribute to more efficient management of the quantity and quality of the food supply – reduced loss and waste – will pay off through healthier food and better nutrition, ”adds Simmons.
According to the Global Panel, nutrient loss occurs when the quantity or quality of food decreases due to inefficiencies in the production, harvest, handling, transportation and storage of food for human consumption. This also includes foods that are contaminated with microorganisms, such as E. coli, which must be discarded. Food waste, however, refers to foods that would otherwise be edible but are thrown away due to strict grading and sorting for cosmetic purposes, over-purchasing of perishable items, and eating habits. and the elimination of uneaten portions after meals. Speaking to Food Tank, K. Srinath Reddy, chairman of the Public Health Foundation of India and a member of the global panel, explained that efforts should “focus on minimizing post-harvest losses of fruits and vegetables and of cereals by improving harvesting, storage and transport methods, ”adding that“ preventing damage from pests, rodents, microbial and fungal attacks is also a priority ”.
A diet low in nutrients can adversely affect the development of children and adolescents, increase the risk of heart disease, and reduce learning ability and productivity. Six of the nine major contributors to the global burden of disease stem from factors related to diet. Reddy told Food Tank that “there is now overwhelming evidence to show that dietary factors cause the many biological changes that lead to heart disease, stroke, and other forms of blood vessel disease. Reddy stressed the importance of the food system, saying “the food system is more important to people’s health than the hospital system.”
Food loss and waste also has significant economic effects which add additional challenges. Simmons points out that “high rates of food loss and waste increase the prices of these products, reducing the ability of low-income consumers to afford them.”
Climate change adds uncertainty to the already risky activity of food production. “Food production – growing crops, raising animals, fishing – is a risky business and climatic variables are a big part of the risk,” says Simmons. Changing environmental conditions such as late onset of rains, temperature changes, insect predation and storms make crops and farmers vulnerable. Innovative production and processing technologies can help producers cope with such variability and reduce losses at the farm level and in post-harvest handling operations. Research and development activities can provide new knowledge to make the food supply system more resilient to climate challenges.
Currently, poorly managed food production systems contribute to environmental degradation. Compensating for food loss and waste by increasing production only increases degradation. “Reducing food waste conserves our nutritional resources, protects the universal availability and affordability of healthy food products, and helps us avoid environmental impact on the food system, which is vulnerable to climate change,” Reddy tells Food Tank .
With all of these challenges for global food and nutrition security and the urgent need to improve the quality of diets to meet public health goals, the Global Expert Panel’s guidance note includes four priority areas for action. . These include educating people at all levels of the food system, including eaters, to prioritize reducing food loss and waste, taking practical steps to reduce these problems, improving infrastructures that promote a well-functioning and efficient food system and encourage innovative solutions. to retain nutrients in the system. Solving the crisis of excessive food loss and waste will require action at all levels: household, community, city, national and international. While some companies and countries are making progress, Simmons adds that “there is still a long way to go in virtually every region of the world to ensure that everyone has access to safe, nutritious and affordable food. Making the reduction of food waste and loss a priority will help achieve this goal. “