A third of global food production is lost in the production chain or wasted in the chain of consumption, with severe consequences in the social, environmental and economic spheres. Reducing the volumes of this shocking waste is one of the objectives of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

It is estimated that global food production is sufficient to feed 10 billion people, more than 2 billion more than the current world population. In contrast, the FAO annual report - The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World - reveals that in 2020 between 720 and 811 million people in the world went hungry, 161 million more than in 2019. In the same period almost 2.37 billion individuals did not have access to adequate nutrition, 320 million more than the previous year.

This problem particularly affects children under 5: hunger or malnutrition cause stunted growth (149.2 million), wasting (45.4 million) or overweight (38.9 million), particularly in Africa and Asia. Obesity in adults has also registered an increase on a global level, with no sign of a reverse trend.

Among the leading causes of the nutritional problems that are the scourge of the world’s population, food waste is especially striking due to the serious nature of its implicit paradox.

“The annual global average of 74 kg per capita of wasted food is remarkably similar in high, medium-high and medium-low income countries.”

Food loss refers to the decrease in the amount of edible food along the supply chain of food for human consumption. It occurs in the production, post-harvest and processing stages of the supply chain.

Food waste refers to losses occurring at the end of the supply chain during retail sale and final consumption, with reference to the behaviour of retailers and consumers.

The waste or loss of “food” is measured only with regard to products intended for human consumption, excluding feed and inedible parts of products.


In its report - Food Waste index Report 2021 – the FAO estimated that a third of the global food volume produced is lost in the production chain, or wasted in the post production network. Of the approximately 931 million tons of food waste generated in 2019, 61% is produced in the family setting, 25% in catering, while 13% derives from the retail sector. In global terms this waste represents 17% of world food production, with responsibility lying 11% with families, 5% with the catering sector, and 2% with retail.

Although the data does not allow for a solid comparison over time, food waste by consumers (families and caterers) appears to be more than double the previous estimate by FAO in 2011.

Compared with previous evaluations, new evidence has emerged:

1.      The production of domestic food waste – average per family – is largely similar and significant in high, medium-high and medium-low income countries, in contrast to previous statements, which concentrated on consumer food waste in developed countries, and the food production, stock and transport losses in developing countries;

2.      The food waste generated by families and caterers appears to be more than double previous FAO estimates.

Food waste is one of the 169 targets of the 17 Sustainable Developments Goals (SDGs) declared in 2015 by the United Nations. The topic is included in Objective 12: “Responsible consumption and production”, and specifically in target 12.3: “By 2030, halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest” www.fao.org/sdg-progress-report/2021/en/.


The reduction of food waste has a positive effect on people and the planet. It implicitly improves food security, has a positive impact on climate change, and contributes to reducing the exploitation of soil and water, as well as the stress on waste disposal systems. The Objective of Sustainable Development 12.3 is to halve food waste by 2030 in all phases of the supply chain.