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The Zero Hunger Challenge – Advisory note for action

View the full Advisory Note on “Zero loss or waste of food”

I. Definition

Food is any substance, whether processed, semi-processed or raw, which is intended for human consumption. Food loss is the decrease in quantity or quality of food. Food waste is an important part of food loss and refers to the removal from the food supply chain of food which is fit for consumption, or which has spoiled or expired, mainly caused by economic behaviour, poor stock management or neglect.

II. Policy measures

A ‘hierarchy approach’ should be taken in which emphasis is placed on prevention (source reduction) as the priority option for reducing food loss and waste. Where prevention fails or is impossible, the order of priority is: recovery and redistribution of food to feed humans; recovery to feed animals; recycling for industrial purposes such as for bioenergy; and composting.  Incinerating and disposing wasted food in landfills are the worst options.

The approach to reducing Food Loss and Waste (FLW) should be embedded within a broader framework for promoting sustainable food systems. Policy measures directed at reducing FLW should promote resource efficiency, environmental sustainability and climate resilience. These policy measures can contribute to food and nutrition security goals. They should also consider relevant gender dimensions.

Policies and strategies aimed to reduce FLW should be an integral part of the wider frameworks established to promote food and nutrition security and social and economic development. These frameworks should be assessed to identify and address gaps which might contribute to FLW. National efforts to address FLW should be coordinated to avoid duplication. The private sector is a crucial partner in efforts to address FLW. Coherent polices and government regulations are needed to create an enabling environment that is conducive for the private sector to help reduce FLW.

III. Metrics

There are two metrics being proposed to monitor progress on FLW:

The targets corresponding to these metrics are the same of those for SDG 12.3. They are respectively:

IV. Messaging

Private sector

The basic principle in the role of the private sector is that it is primarily the people and companies acting in the food supply chain (farmers, traders, processors, retailers and consumers) that can reduce FLW at a significant scale. The public sector is indispensable in reducing FLW but its primary role is in facilitating action from these actors. The private sector should support stakeholders in identifying needs for government investments and incentives. The private sector should communicate these needs to governments and development agencies and lobby for appropriate and immediate public action. The private sector should take a hierarchy approach, with prevention as the first option for reducing FLW. Where prevention is not possible, the order of priority is: recovery and redistribution to feed humans; recovery to feed animals; recycling for industrial purposes; and composting.  Incineration and disposal of waste in landfills are the last options.

When there is lack of data to guide FLW reduction, the private sector can support assessments to generate the needed data, which may help their own businesses. The private could improve the transparency and sharing of FLW data across the food supply chain. The private sector should help prevent and reduce FLW through direct private investment in improved technologies and infrastructure needed along the food supply chain.   

Civil Society

Consumers' food waste occurs as a result of sub-optimal food planning, buying, storage, preparation and use. Messages to civil society may take two complementary forms. The first is awareness-raising to encourage behavioural change.  Awareness-raising programs can show how reducing food waste not only helps to save money but also helps foster a sustainable future. It should be complemented with messages to foster skills and manage food efficiently.  Useful skills include household management skills, stock organization, and how to prepare nutritious and healthy meals. Cascade training, through which influential community members undergo training and then share this with their neighbours, can be particularly effective.

V. Conclusion

Global Food Loss Index (GFLI): The GFLI will be calculated on the basis of a standard definition. However, the accuracy of the estimates will vary across countries as a result of differences in the availability and quality of the source data.

Quantification method for food waste:
The Food Loss and Waste Protocol is a global accounting and reporting standard for quantifying food loss and waste. It will enable countries, companies and other organizations to account for and report how much food loss and waste occurs.

Future activities of the Working Group will strive to align to and contribute to SDG goal 12.3, "Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns’ and its targets by 2030, halving per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer level, and reducing food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses."