Consumers may waste more than twice as much food as is commonly believed, a study published on Wednesday in the scientific journal PLOS ONE showed.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a specialized agency of the United Nations, estimated that one-third of all food available for human consumption was wasted in 2005. But the FAO considered food supply alone and did not factor in consumer behaviour regarding food waste, the study said.
The researchers from Wageningen University and Research in the Netherlands used a human metabolism model and data from the FAO, the World Bank, and the World Health Organization to quantify the relationship between food waste and consumer affluence.
They found that once consumers reach a spending threshold of approximately 6.70 U.S. dollars per capita per day, consumer food waste starts to increase rapidly with rising affluence at first, and then at much slower rates at higher levels of affluence.
While the FAO estimated that food waste reached 214 Kcal per day per capita for the year 2005-2007, this model estimated food waste as 527 Kcal per day per capita, the study said.
The study suggested that to achieve low global food waste, it is necessary to prevent waste levels from rising rapidly in lower-middle-income countries where affluence is increasing, while reducing high food waste levels in high-income countries.