A useful waste: Promoting nutrition through food waste

A useful waste: Promoting nutrition through food waste

The growth of food waste has attracted significant global interest. Estimates vary, but about one-third of all global food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted, amounting to roughly 1.3 billion tons of food every year. Approximately 14% of food produced worldwide is lost during post-harvest and pre-retail stages, and an estimated 17% of total food production is wasted, at a value of $400 billion per year. Of this, 11% occurs at the household level, 5% in the food service sector, and 2% in retail. Indeed, enough food is wasted globally per year to provide 2,100 kcal/day for an extra 2 billion people.

Food waste and nutrition insecurity are two interconnected issues with a significant impact on global food systems. While food waste results in the loss of valuable resources and contributes to environmental issues, it also has implications for food and nutrition security. This is particularly true for fruits and vegetables, often discarded due to cosmetic imperfections or overproduction, with a concurrent loss of essential vitamins and minerals. For example, the DELTA  Model® identified that for nutrients like cysteine, phosphorous, tryptophan, thiamin, and methionine, nutrient loss and waste is greater than 50% of the recommended daily intake value.

A New Zealand case study

In New Zealand, food waste and micronutrient deficiencies are topical issues and the focus of a current effort by the Office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor. Kiwis throw away over 157,000 tons of food annually, equivalent to 271 jumbo jets full of food waste. Meanwhile micronutrient deficiencies are widespread, with inadequate intakes of several nutrients, including vitamin D, iodine, and iron. Thus, New Zealand faces the dual challenge of tackling micronutrient deficiencies and implementing effective food waste management practices; the improvement in one having the potential to mitigate the other .

An example of potential

Pomace (fruit residue) is a byproduct of fruit and wine processing, such as grapes, apples, and olives, that consists of skin, seeds, and pulp of the fruits. In New Zealand, apple and grape pomace are major waste streams, often used for livestock feed or sent to landfill. However, these commodities are a rich source of valuable nutrients, dietary fibre, antioxidants, polyphenols, and other beneficial compounds. Both apple and grape pomace can be used to create added-value products, such as dietary supplements.

Many potentially valuable waste streams exist, and while limitations such as nutrient content variability, availability, and food safety must be overcome, the opportunity for valorising food waste from a nutrition perspective is clear. Policy options on innovation, awareness, and agriculture for the use of byproducts could potentially reduce waste and increase food security.

This SNippet was written by Ejovi Abafe, a PhD fellow in the SNi team.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash


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