In our last blog, we spoke about what is food waste and why it’s a problem we should all have. In case you missed it, you can catch it here. However, there is something that we also need to get – Food loss and food waste are two distinct concepts! And that they refer to different stages in the food supply chain. If I were to capture them each in one sentence, I would say that food loss occurs at the production, post-harvest, and processing stages, while food waste occurs at the retail and consumer stages. Understanding how they differ is essential to being able to plan and put effective measures in place. So I ask, which one is worse – wasting food or losing food?
Let’s talk food loss
Food loss refers to the decrease in quantity or quality of food that occurs in the early stages of the food supply chain, before it reaches the market. This can happen due to a variety of factors, such as spoilage, damage during transportation, or pests and diseases to name a few. Food loss can also occur due to lack of infrastructure, storage, or other resources needed to maintain the quality and safety of the food.
What is food waste
On the other hand, food waste refers to the decrease in quantity or quality of food that occurs at the retail and consumer stages. This can happen when food is discarded by retailers due to overstocking or when it reaches its expiration date. Food waste can also occur at the consumer level, for example, when people throw away food that is still safe to eat, or when they prepare too much food and throw away the leftovers.
While both food loss and food waste result in the same outcome of some edible food being lost, the main difference lies in the stage of the food supply chain and oftentimes the location (country) at which it occurs. Food loss tends to be more prevalent in developing countries, where the infrastructure and resources for storing and transporting food are often inadequate and it is here that Trinidad and Tobago fits in. In contrast, food waste tends to be more prevalent in developed countries, where consumers have more access to food and tend to discard food that is still safe to eat – the USA sticks out like a sore thumb here! For us, we have the saying, ‘better belly buss dan good food waste’ so wasting food especially at the household level is minimal.
Both food loss and food waste have significant economic, social, and environmental impacts. Reducing both food loss and food waste is crucial in ensuring food security and sustainable food systems. Efforts to reduce food loss and waste should be targeted at all stages of the food supply chain, from production to consumption, and involve a range of stakeholders, including farmers, processors, retailers, consumers, and policymakers.
Have you been able to answer the question – which one is worse – wasting food or losing food? Or are they a tie in your book?
Let us know in the comments.
*This Eco-Learn article is made possible through the 'Doh Waste Good Food' Campaign - a Food Waste management campaign conducted in collaboration with Siel Environmental.