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Food Waste Totaling 1.3 Billion Tons Can Be Eased, UN Says

May 11 (Bloomberg) -- Food wasted or lost during production totals about 1.3 billion metric tons a year, or one-third of global production for human consumption, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization said.

Farmers in low-income countries lack suitable storage and cooling facilities, so food spoils before getting to consumers, the UN said. Rich countries waste about 222 million tons of food, nearly the total food output in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the report. Food losses occur during production or processing. Waste is usable food that’s not consumed.

“Economically avoidable food losses have a direct and negative impact on the income of both farmers and consumers,” the UN said. “Improving the efficiency of the food supply chain could help to bring down the cost of food to the consumer and thus increase access.”

Retailers put too much emphasis on appearance, the UN said. Studies show consumers are willing to buy produce that doesn’t meet appearance standards as long as it is safe and tastes good, the organization said.

“Customers thus have the power to influence quality standards and should do so,” the UN said. “Selling farm produce closer to consumers, without having to conform to supermarkets’ quality standards, is another suggestion. This could be achieved through farmers’ markets and farm shops.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Tony C. Dreibus in London at tdreibus@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Claudia Carpenter at ccarpenter@bloomberg.net.

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