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Canada wastes $27 billion worth of food a year

In Canada, where food is abundant and the population is affluent, food waste is estimated at $27 billion a year, according to the Value Chain Management Centre in Guelph, Ont.

Statistics Canada actually calculated food waste down to the individual for 2009, and a Globe and Mail article broke down the numbers:

– 122 kilograms of fruits and vegetables
– 6 kgs of dairy products
– 10 kgs of boneless poultry
– 16 kgs of boneless red meat
– 18 kgs of oils, fats, sugar and syrup

Globally, the food and agriculture arm of the United Nations estimated that in 2011, that one-third of food produced for hungry humans was wasted–about 1.3 billion tonnes.

More sobering is the fact that some 860 million people are malnourished, according to a 2008 report by the Stockholm International Water Institute, said the article.

Add to this the fact that the cost of food continues to rise in Canada, with Statscan’s Consumer Price Index last week showing a 1.6 per cent increase in food prices in September from a year ago.

“Food waste presents a real opportunity we need to address,” said Martin Gooch, director of the VCMC, which is a branch of the George Morris Centre, an agriculture products think-tank. “It impacts the economy. It impacts the environment.”

It would take the entire food chain–from the farmer’s gate to the consumer’s plate–to be pro-active in the amount of food waste and environmental damage in greenhouse gas and methane emissions, according to Gooch.

In addition, consumers could save money on their grocery bills and businesses could boost profits.

What’s contributing to the problem? Gooch said he blames large North American fridges that make it easy to lose track of food.

In Canada, the George Morris Centre’s report found that half of the food waste occurs in the home; almost a fifth happens at the packaging and processing level; and retail stores are responsible for 11 per cent of lost food. Farms contribute to nine per cent, followed by food service at eight per cent.

One only needs to look abroad to see how other countries are dealing with food waste.

The United Kingdom’s 12-year-old “waste reduction action programme” has revamped food date labelling so consumers don’t think food has spoiled just because it has passed its best-before-date, reported the Globe.

But Keivan Kokaei, head of the “lean and green” practice at S A Partners, told the Globe it’s the retailers that are really at the forefront by making sure food doesn’t fall on the floor during processing or avoiding buy-one, get-one free deals, as research shows it actually hurts the bottom line and encourages waste.

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