A food shop in Shanghai.(Xinhua/Chen Fei)
As much as 50 percent of all food produced around the world ends up as waste, a new report said on Thursday.
The Institution of Mechanical Engineers said in its latest report on "Global Food Waste Not Want Not" found that "between 30 percent and 50 percent or 1.2-2 billion tonnes of food produced around the world each year never reaches a human stomach".
Reasons for the food waste included inadequate infrastructure and storage facilities, as well as overly strict sell-by dates, buy-one-get-one free offers, and consumers demanding cosmetically perfect food.
"The amount of food wasted and lost around the world is staggering. This is food that could be used to feed the world's growing population, as well as those in hunger today, said Tim Fox, Head of Energy and Environment at the institution.
"It is also an unnecessary waste of the land, water and energy resources that were used in the production, processing and distribution of this food.," he said.
The institution called for improving processes and infrastructure as well as changing consumer mindsets so as to provide 60-100 percent more food to feed the world's growing population.
In Britain, up to 30 percent of vegetable crops are not harvested because their physical appearance fails to meet the exacting demands of consumers, according to the new report.
Half the food purchased in Europe and the US is thrown away after it is bought, it added.
Vast quantities of water are also wasted in global food production, according to the institution, with the figures showing that around 550 billion cubic meters of water is used to grow crops that never reach the consumer, according to the report.
"Producing one kilogram of meat is also said to take 20 to 50 times more water than producing the same weight of vegetables," the report read.
The demand for water in food production could reach 10 to 13 trillion cubic meters a year by 2050, the institution said.
This is about 3.5 times greater than the total amount of fresh water used by humans today, raising the specter of dangerous water shortages.
"It is also an unnecessary waste of the land, water and energy resources that were used in the production, processing and distribution of this food," Fox said.
By 2075, the United Nations predicted that the world's population will reach around 9.5 billion, resulting in an extra three billion mouths to feed.
Fox called on governments, development agencies and organizations like the UN to "work together to help change people's mindsets on waste and discourage wasteful practices by farmers, food producers, supermarkets and consumers."