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Food Loss and Waste

Latest UNECE tool to combat food loss and waste: 
  • Minimum Quality Specifications (MQS) for Fresh Fruit and Vegetables  French   Russian
    What: The UNECE Minimum Quality Specifications (MQS) for Fresh Fruit and Vegetables (UNECE-MQS) developed by the Specialized Section on Standardization of Fresh Fruit and Vegetables provide a simple trading language that is easy to apply.
    Why: The UNECE-MQS assure when applied along the distribution chain the produce recipient will receive a product of marketable quality and suitable for human consumption. Thus, the application of the UNECE-MQS help to prevent food loss; while providing all the necessary information about the product including country of origin.
    The application of the UNECE-MQS is voluntary. The application of UNECE-MQS does not replace or compete with any existing standard or legal provision in any country.
  • COVID-19 and the food markets: UNECE - #saveinvisiblefood campaign
    UNECE, with its #saveinvisiblefood campaign, encourages all actors of the food supply chain to redistribute, repurpose and add value to the food which we are not selling, buying or consuming – the lost or invisible food that many of us did not even know existed. Although awareness of food loss and waste has increased in recent years, COVID-19 has brought this lost food to the forefront and to our attention.
    We call upon food loss and waste pioneers, farmers, traders, exporters and importers, retailers and consumers to take this opportunity to become part of the solution.
  • Code of Good Practice - Reducing food loss in handling fruit and vegetables (ECE/TRADE/454)
    What: A Code of Good Practice which helps maintain quality along the fresh fruit and vegetables supply chains, to prevent and reduce food loss and waste. It sets out measures to be taken at the various stages of the supply chain before the fruit and vegetables reach the consumer, i.e. from harvest to retail and supports continued improvement, step by step. Real improvement, however, can only be achieved if actors along the distribution chain cooperate to improve their logistics, handling and planning, both inside countries and across borders. Communication will be a key factor. Measuring waste, which is the last point in each section of the Code, will give companies feedback on how well their work progresses.
    Why: Fruit and vegetables are sold internationally, as well as locally, regionally and nationally. They are frequently traded over large distances and involve several actors. A continuous challenge is to reduce waste and losses, and this requires great care, attention and cooperation along all the entire value chain. The perishable nature of most fruits and vegetables means that loss and waste of products can be high. The problem of waste, in particular, has received much attention in recent years because of the impact on the environment. Much can be gained, including economically, from taking measures to reduce the losses and the waste. The Code of Good Practice supports the United Nations Sustainability Goal 12.3 on halving food loss and waste by 2030.
  • Simply Measuring - UNECE food loss and waste measuring methodology for fresh produce supply chains (ECE/TRADE/453)
    What: A simple methodology aimed to systematically measuring the food lost and wasted at several key points of the fresh produce supply chain. Building on existing methodologies used in assessments around the world and newly developed elements based on studies already carried out.
    Why: A simple methodology can help all to continuously record food losses along the supply chain and collect most valuable data on production, sales and losses to prevent, reduce, repurpose and redistribute the food currently lost.
Quality to prevent food loss and waste
UNECE’s quality standards for the safe and transparent trade of food and agricultural produce ensure that the consumers in rural and urban areas receive a constant supply of high-quality, healthy and nutritious food. Maintaining the quality of food traded from the farm to the shop through international best practice reduces losses, enhances the economic value of food trade, opens income opportunities and alleviates health risks for the more vulnerable city dwellers. The trade in and availability of good quality food is a prerequisite for sustaining the growing population and facing the climate and environmental challenges. In addition, creating sustainable employment in rural areas for woman and youth through the redistribution of food otherwise lost or wasted helps address the rural-to-city migration problem.
UNECE has addressed the food loss challenge since 2013 – including in view of enhancing the circular economy in its member states. Through the constant review of its quality standards for agricultural produce traded internationally and nationally, we ensure that the quality of the produce used and traded is maintained along the entire supply chain. Food loss is therefore prevented and reduced. We also focus on the food lost in the trade process before it reaches the consumer and even retail. These often-neglected hotspots for food loss are at heart of the work of our expert groups.
Our innovative solutions provide tools and holistic, impactful solutions for governments and the private sector and enhance the circular economy. Their core aim is to prevent, reduce and keep as much food as possible in the human consumption chain; repurposing and redistributing to feed all, create income possibilities and employment opportunities and support climate change action.
The economic and food security dimension
The overall economic result of food loss and waste is immense and even larger for the vulnerable populations as food becomes less available or prices are affected leading to food insecurity. Financial resources are used to produce huge quantities of food that are never consumed and would be enough to feed the population. Therefore, there is a strong business and food security case for addressing the food loss/waste challenge.
The climate dimension
Climate change and food loss/waste are closely related. According to the latest estimates, 8% of the greenhouse gas emissions are caused by food that is lost and wasted. Food loss and waste impacts water and land resources and biodiversity.