At least 870 million people facing hunger could be fed with one-fourth of the food wasted across the world, a Turkish nutritionist said Tuesday.
Noting how the world population is expected to rise to 9.8 billion by 2050 and consequently food needs are expected to increase by 60%, Dr. Nihal Büyükuslu told Anadolu Agency that approximately half of all fruits and vegetables produced globally are wasted each year according to the UN.
Büyükuslu, an assistant professor at Istanbul Medipol University, said food waste should be handled in two ways.
"The portion of food lost from harvest to retail level is expressed as food loss, and the portion wasted at the consumer or retail level is food waste," Büyükuslu said.
Despite the distribution of food in industrialized and developing countries being roughly at the same portion, she said food loss and waste in industrialized countries is at $680 billion and at $310 billon for developing countries.
"Fruits and vegetables, roots and tubers have higher potential to be wasted compared to other foods," she said.
Büyükuslu noted that total per capita food production for human consumption is about 900 kilograms per year in rich countries, which is almost twice the 460 kg produced in poor regions.
"If only a quarter of the food currently lost or wasted globally could be saved, it would be possible to feed 870 million hungry people around the world."
She also said that food loss and waste has significantly negative effects on the economy and environment.
Büyükuslu emphasized that local and international joint planning and actions should be initiated to prevent food waste.
"For this, first of all, the stages of food waste from production to the consumer should be determined and strategies to prevent waste should be developed."
She noted that food waste is a matter that could be managed and prevented.
"The world will experience the consequences of food injustice as mass migrations, chaos, turmoil, conflicts, or even war. Economy-oriented food access is not acceptable for humanity. It is a shame of humanity that those with better economic conditions can be fed healthy and adequately while others are left to hunger and unhealthy conditions."
In Turkey, at least 13.8% of the food produced in 2016 was lost at the level of agricultural processing, according to the Food Loss Index of UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Büyükuslu said.
"In our country, at least 5.4% of the leftover food is trashed while 23% of the purchased food is trashed without even consuming it, according to the 2018 Turkey Waste Report prepared by the Trade Ministry. According to the same study, the rate of those who go shopping with a grocery list is at 31%. In other words, a significant amount of consumers are shopping unplanned," she said.
Describing ways to overcome food waste, Büyükuslu said: "The success of the national strategy depends on the cooperation of the public sector, industry, consumers, academia and non-governmental organizations."
"Global and local action is required to maximize the use of the food we produce. Responsible consumer awareness should be created with the thought that all resources used to produce food-including water, land, energy, labor and funds-would be wasted with wasting food," she added.
Additionally, smart food production technologies and producer awareness must be created while food losses and wastes in landfills that contribute to climate change by causing greenhouse gas emissions should be eliminated, Büyükuslu said.
She also urged people to plan a healthier and more sustainable diet and to determine which foods a person experiences the most food loss and waste in household consumption.
"Plan what you can do to reduce and prevent this. Buy food and drinks only as much as you need," she added.