Reducing food loss and waste (FLW) is prioritized in UN sustainable development goals (SDG) target 12.3 to contribute to “ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns”. It is expected to significantly improve global food security and mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Identifying “hotspots” from different perspectives of sustainability helps to prioritize the food items for which interventions can lead to the largest reduction of FLW-related impacts. Existing studies in this field have limitations, such as having incomplete geographical and food commodity coverage, using outdated data, and focusing on the mass of FLW instead of its nutrient values. To provide renewed and more informative insights, we conducted a global hotspot analysis concerning FLW with its associated GHG emissions and protein losses using the most recent data (the new FAO Food Balance Sheets updated in 2020). The findings of this research are that there were 1.9 Gt of FLW, 2.5 Gt of associated GHG emissions, and 0.1 Gt of associated protein losses globally in 2017. The results of the FLW amounts, GHG emissions, and protein losses per chain link are given on the scale of the entire world and continental regions. Next to this, food items with relatively high FLW, GHG emissions, and protein losses are highlighted to provide the implications to policymakers for better decision making. For example, fruits and vegetables contribute the most to global FLW volumes, but the product with the highest FLW-associated GHG emissions is bovine meat. For bovine meat, FLW-associated GHG emissions are highest at the consumer stage of North America and Oceania. Oil crops are the major source of protein losses in the global food chain. Another important finding with policy implications is that priorities for FLW reduction vary, dependent on prioritized sustainability criteria (e.g., GHG emissions versus protein losses).
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