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PARIS: Seventeen percent of the food available to consumers worldwide in 2019 — almost one billion tonnes — was thrown away by households, retailers, institutions and the hospitality industry, far more than previously suspected, the UN said Thursday.

“The scale of the problem is just huge,” Richard Swannell, development director of the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), a non-profit that co-authored a special report, told AFP.

“This is costly environmentally, socially and economically.”

If all the wasted food were packed into 40-ton container trucks parked end-to-end, they would circle the Earth seven times, he said.

Nearly 700 million people, meanwhile, go to bed hungry every night, according to UN estimates.

Besides sheer volume, the report challenges two widely held views on where food waste is concentrated, both across and within countries.

“Up to now, food waste was seen as a rich world problem,” said co-author Clementine O’Connor, an expert at the UN Environment Programme’s Sustainable Food Systems Programme.

“Our report shows that for every country that has measured food waste, household food waste is a global problem.”

Of the 121 kilos of consumer-level food thrown away each year for every person on the planet, more than half — 74 kilos — is disposed of by households.

The report covers three-quarters of humanity and 54 countries — poor, middle-income and rich — with good enough data to ensure robust findings, the authors said. It is also the first to focus exclusively on what happens to food at the consumer level, rather than food lost during production, storage, or distribution. The resulting Food Waste Index is designed to help countries take the measure of the problem within their borders, which could also help curb global warming.—AFP

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