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Reducing Food Loss And Waste While Improving The Public’s Health

This paper presents an overview of policies and interventions aimed at addressing food loss and waste. It argues that to curtail food waste in higher income countries, measures such as clarifying food date labels could go a long way. Consumers are often confused by "use by," "best by" and "sell by" dates on food packaging and throw out perfectly edible food. Improving date labelling policy can also improve food safety.

In addition, creating markets for so-called "ugly" produce could minimize food waste while increasing fruit and vegetable consumption. Some strategies can however be damaging. Recovering food that would otherwise be wasted is generally a win-win for food security and waste prevention. But donated food should meet recipient needs, not only those of donors to get rid of it; food banks are increasingly working to seek out healthier donations.


An estimated 30 percent of the global food supply is lost or wasted, as is about 40 percent of the US food supply. There are valuable synergies between efforts to reduce food loss and waste and those promoting public health. To demonstrate the potential impact of building upon these synergies, we present an analysis of policies and interventions addressing food loss and waste, food security, food safety, and nutrition. We characterize as opportunities the policies and interventions that promote synergistic relationships between goals in the fields of food loss and waste and of public health. We characterize as challenges the policies and interventions that may reduce food loss and waste but compromise public health, or improve public health but increase food loss and waste. Some interventions are both opportunities and challenges. With deliberate planning and action, challenges can often be addressed and turned into opportunities. In other cases, it may be necessary to strike a balance between potential benefit in one area and risk of harm in the other. To help policy makers make the best use of the opportunities while tackling the challenges, it is essential to consider public health in efforts to reduce food loss and waste.


Neff, R. A., Kanter, R., Vandevijvere, S. (2015) Reducing Food Loss And Waste While Improving The Public's Health. Health Affairs, 2015; 34 (11): 1821 DOI: 10.1377/hlthaff.2015.0647

Read the full paper here, see a related article “A Food Systems Approach To Healthy Food And Agriculture Policy” here  and see further coverage here.

You can find related resources by browsing the following research library categories:  theories, methods and tools, behaviour and practice, behaviour and practice theories, decision making tools, waste and resource use, food labelling, food waste, consumer perceptions and preferences, public attitudes, health issues, health policy, sustainable healthy diets, and lastly governance and policy.

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