Food Loss and its Future


Food Loss and its Future

Ripe fruits, fresh vegetables, juicy prime meat, nutritious dairy products – no matter how delicious these foods look on the supermarket shelves, they inevitably become waste as their expiration dates approach.

According to a study by the non-profit organization ReFED, 34% of perishable foods in the supply chain are discarded without being consumed. In the midst of this, the United Nations has set a sustainable goal to “halve global food waste by 2030” with the aim of eradicating world hunger.

What methods exist to solve these challenges? One approach is the simple idea of encouraging people to buy and consume food while it’s still delicious. This is achieved through the strategy of “Markdown Optimization,” which balances inventory reduction with profit preservation by gradually discounting items based on their expiration dates.

Tech startup “Wasteless,” with bases in the US and various European countries, is tackling this optimization using an AI-powered supply system. They argue that it’s “nonsensical to pay the same price for cheese that will expire in 2 days or 7 days” and suggest that lowering prices for items nearing their expiration dates can incentivize customers.

The results of a test conducted by the company in Spain showed a 1/3 reduction in discarded unused food. Their machine learning algorithms are consistently updated and progressing steadily towards their goal of an 80% reduction in food waste. Their technology, which can integrate into existing supermarket systems, benefits not only customers but also retailers. For retailers, discarding food they’ve already received is a significant opportunity loss, and selling all items before their expiration can yield greater profits.

The challenge of food waste extends beyond households. The growing awareness of consumption throughout the supply chain is leading to optimization in production. The impact of climate change on our lives has been happening long before we throw food waste into the garbage. Considering responsible consumption is key to moving toward a more optimal future in global production.



Lifelong Learning about Food

While working on this article, I discussed my daily food habits with my wife. Among the topics that sparked the most interest was “food education” for our 5-month-old daughter. Different opinions were raised, including “I want her to grow up without food preferences,” “Limit fast food to a few times a month,” and “I want us to eat together as a family.” Despite these strong desires for our child, when I reflect on my own food habits, I often skip breakfast and have convenience store meals for lunch. It’s clear that I’ve become a mere “educator” in name only.

Furthermore, the data from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare that “10% of children (ages 1-6) skip breakfast 1-4 times a week” added a sense of crisis. The saying “children mirror their parents” might apply here, as my own eating habits might inadvertently influence my child. Children’s food education could be considered an extension of adults’ food education.

Looking up “What is food education?” revealed that it encompasses a wide range of areas: “a foundation for living, positioning it as the basis for intellectual, moral, and physical development, and fostering individuals who acquire knowledge about ‘food’ through various experiences, possess the ability to make choices about ‘food,’ and practice a healthy dietary lifestyle.” Initiatives like agricultural and fishing experiences, part of food education projects, are expected to instill an attitude of valuing food by understanding producers and expressing gratitude to nature. This could contribute to reducing food waste.

Continuing to learn about “food education” throughout our lives might be the first step in enriching our lives. This could protect not only ourselves and our families but also contribute to solving the critical issue of food waste.

Embracing Minimal Waste Living During "Stay-at-Home" Time

Can you imagine how much food goes to waste in your daily life? Confronting the actual numbers might be eye-opening – the reality of the amount of food waste generated daily might be quite shocking. According to data from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, about 1.3 billion tons of food are wasted globally each year. Among countries, the UK has the highest food waste, with Europe dominating the top ranks even when adjusted per capita. Japan is no exception, with an estimated annual food waste of around 6.12 million tons. When this is divided per person, it’s equivalent to discarding a bowl of food every day. Though this might be a small amount on a global scale, considering Japan’s low food self-sufficiency, even a small amount of food waste incurs significant costs. This paints a serious picture of Japan’s food waste problem.

The more you know about food waste, the more alarming the issue becomes. In fact, unknowingly, you might be losing out in terms of your wallet and daily life. Overlooking usable ingredients, or purchasing too much just because it’s cheap, only to let them spoil, are common scenarios. We should consider addressing the issue of food waste as a way to be kinder to ourselves and our wallets.

In the UK, where food waste is a significant problem, the amount of food waste during lockdown decreased by one-third compared to before. This could be attributed to increased efficiency in consuming refrigerator ingredients and a rise in cooking opportunities at home during the pandemic. The era of “stay-at-home” has provided more opportunities to efficiently use “what’s already there.” Trying out things you haven’t used much before, cooking dishes you’ve never tried, or other similar experiments might lead to surprising discoveries. Even with food, parts that you thought were inedible might be utilized differently. Composting parts that can’t be eaten could even contribute to the well-being of potted plants by using them as fertilizer.

During “stay-at-home” time, by facing what you already have, you might find hidden hints to enrich your life.

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