Food loss and food waste

Food loss

CFD Food

Referring to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and their Global Initiative on Food Loss and Waste Reduction (report available here):

Food losses are defined as “the decrease in quantity or quality of food” and are the agricultural or fisheries products intended for human consumption that are ultimately not eaten by people or that have incurred a reduction in quality reflected in the nutritional value, economic value or food safety.

In this definition, “food waste” are included in food loss. Food waste “refers to the discarding or alternative (non-food) use of food that was fit for human consumption – by choice or after the food has been left to spoil or expire as a result of negligence” (FAO, 2014).

Edible food loss, potentially edible food loss and inedible food loss can also be further defined:

  • Edible food loss can come from:

Processes or other products where the intention has been to produce an item of food, but where the product for various reasons has become food loss.

For example, errors in labeling, damaged food in storage, and errors in production.

  • Potentially edible food loss:  

Comprises ingredients or products that are not suitable for ordinary sale due to errors in production or the product’s failure to meet the quality specifications

This loss can be due to line changeover production (e.g. between two types of biscuits being produced with the same machine), test of new recipes, etc.

  • Inedible food loss: 

Refers to ingredients which are not suited for consumption in accordance with food standards today

For instance, bones or meat skin.

You can identify food loss at each stage of production:

  • Ingredient storage stage: food loss can be ingredients that could be used as food
  • Processing stage: food loss can be process loss that could have been utilised as food
  • Packaging stage: food loss can be product with errors in labelling or damage in the packaging process
  • Warehouse/ retailer stage: food loss can be products that have passed the sell by date or been damaged in storage

Food waste

Food waste, according to the FAO, occurs from purchase, storage, preparation, consumption and retail sale and consumer disposal of food in the household. Australians households waste an estimated $5.2 billion worth of food every year.

Research into household food waste in other countries has revealed that perishable foods such as fruit, vegetables, dairy products and pre-prepared meals are the largest contributors to food waste.

International research also indicates why food is wasted in the home, including food being spoiled/ mouldy or past its expiry date; preparing too much food; and plate waste. Packaging was mentioned as a contributing factor in a Swedish study in that the packaging serving size was sometimes too big or it was difficult to empty. The problem with serving sizes could be due to one of three issues: limited options to buy an appropriate serving size, purchasing errors by the household or buying packaging that is too large because of its perceived value.

The trend towards smaller households has important implications for food waste and packaging. As the Australian population ages there will be an increasing number of people living in single or two person households. Single occupancy households tend to waste more food per person than the average household, so there is clearly an opportunity for food manufacturers to cater for this group by providing smaller serving sizes or resealable packaging.

Examples of recipes for households to minimise waste losses can be found on the Internet. One example is the WRAP Love Food and Hate Waste website:


Illustration of websites to help minimising food waste in households: the WRAP “Love Food and Hate Waste” website, recipes available at:










Click on the image or the links to access the available resources.

WRAP website on Love Food and Hate Waste program: about food waste, news, portion and plan, tips to same time and money, recipes, etc.

 Other resources: journal article and reports:

Moller H, Vold M, Schakenda, V, Hanssen O J, Mapping method for food loss in the food processing industry, ISBN no.: 978-82-7520-678-5, 22 pages, 2012, Summary report available here

Verghese, K., Lewis, H., Lockrey, S., Williams, H., The role of packaging in minimising food waste in the supply chain, Report prepared for CHEP, December 2013. More information on CHEP commercial website

Baker, D., J. Fear, and R. Denniss, What a waste: An analysis of household expenditure on food, in Policy Brief No. 6. 2009, The Australia Institute: Canberra, Summary report available here

Ventour, L., Food waste report v2, in The food we waste. 2008, WRAP and Exodus Market Research: Weston-super-Mare, Summary report available here

Katajajuuri, J.-M., K. Silvennoinen, H. Hartikainen, L. Jalkanen, H.-K. Koivupuro, and A. Reinikainen, Food waste in the food chain and related climate impacts, in LCA FOOD St Malo 2012, Summary report available here

Quested, T. and H. Johnson, Household Food and Drink Waste in the UK .A report containing quantification of the amount and types of household. . 2009, WRAP: Oxon, UK, Summary report available here

Williams, H., F. Wikström, T. Otterbring, M. Löfgren, and A. Gustafsson, Reasons for household food waste with special attention to packaging. Journal of Cleaner Production, 2012. 24(0): p. 141-148

Commonwealth of Australia, Australia to 2050: future challenges. 2010: Canberra, Summary report available here

Stuart, T., Waste: Uncovering the global food scandal. 2009, New York: Penguin Group.