UN food loss awareness drive begins

UN food loss awareness drive begins

A "Save Food Campaign" was launched yesterday to address food loss and food waste in Thailand.

The move, which is a joint effort between the government and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), is a first in Asean. The event took place at the CentralWorld shopping centre and was run by Vice-Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Apichart Pongsrihadulchai, and FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative, Hiroyuki Konuma.

Mr Konuma said that worldwide, more than 32 trillion baht worth of food is lost during production, at harvest, during handling, transportation, distribution and storage or is simply wasted by consumers, and in the retail and food service sectors.

"That is the equivalent of some 1.3 billion tonnes of food lost or wasted each year. To put it another way, that's more than one-third of all food produced worldwide."

Rosa Rolle, FAO Technical Coordinator of the Save Food Campaign, said there are no exact figures available on how much food is wasted by consumers or in the food service and food retail sectors in Thailand.

However, it is plain to see food prepared for customers in many restaurants often goes unfinished, she said.

While improving the efficiency of food production — from farms all the way to supermarkets and consumers is making a difference in reducing food loss, other losses in systems that supply the bulk of food to mass markets are high.

This is largely due to handlers' limited knowledge, the high cost of post-harvest technology and improper packaging and handling.

"Strategies are needed to overcome these bottlenecks," Ms Rolle added.

"Mishandling along the [production line] and food waste by consumers result in more than economic losses," said Mr Konuma.

He said valuable natural resources are required to grow, harvest, produce and deliver food to consumers, and these are lost if the food is wasted.

Mr Konuma added much hard work goes into farming and sourcing the food.

Many consumers order too much food in a restaurant or buy too much when shopping and some of the food is later thrown out.

"This borders on indifference and even disrespect of food and the efforts of people who bring it to us," said Mr Konuma.

Speakers said 30–50% of fruit and vegetables across the Asia-Pacific region are ruined during transportation and handling.

In addition, anywhere from 12–37% of rice produced in Southeast Asia is lost during harvest, processing, transportation and storage.

Also, the event encouraged consumers to avoid the impulse of over-buying and ordering too much food at a meal, even when it is a buffet.

Participants agreed better food awareness of those working in food production, better packaging and more efficient food transportation would lead to less spoilage and loss.

Improved food storage and handling would also save money and avoid loss.

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