Mitigating Food Waste- Drivers for Scaling up Nutrition in Pakistan

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) predicted that each year, approximately 1/3 of all food produced for human consumption in the world is lost or wasted. This food wastage represents a missed opportunity to improve global food security, but also to mitigate environmental impacts and resources use from food chains. The global volume of food wastage is estimated at 1.6 billion tonne of “primary product equivalents.” Total food wastage for the edible part of this amounts to 1.3 billion tonne. Pakistan is on the verge of 100,000,000 food insecure families and current situation such as COVID, unemployment is pulling the string from both the ends. Awareness sessions to highlight the pertinent issue and bring to light the food wastage dilemma of our society, is the need of the hour.

The food fortification experts, the experts from corporate sector were invited and were of the view point that developing countries suffer more food losses during agricultural production, while in middle- and high-income regions, food waste at the retail and consumer level, tends to be higher. A supply chain having a proper measuring and managing drivers to reduce food wastage can help reduce the food waste along the operations and ultimately at retailing level. Food wastage is not only leaving the people hungry but also contributing to landfills and H2O2 emissions. There were various possible solutions to food wastage derived from the panel discussions held.

Sorting out the leftover food and see if it is fit for consumption and feed to the poor, is one of the many solutions. Only few organizations are doing this in our country and the exposure to this sort of “save food” approach is by households only. However, this needs to be scaled up and adopted like a behavior by every household, teenager and every responsible citizen to mitigate the effects that incur due to food waste.

Composting the food waste is one option done in the US, Canada, Netherlands and all-around Europe. Pre-consumer food waste is the easiest to compost. It is simply the preparatory food refuse and diminished quality bulk, raw material food that is never seen by the consumer. This food waste is generally already separated from the rest of the waste stream generated; thus, no change is needed to keep contaminants out of the future compost. However, composting food waste is not done at mass level in Pakistan and if implemented holds great potential for recovering from landfills. A low percentage of all food wastage is composted: much of it ends up in landfills and represents a large part of municipal solid waste. Methane emissions from landfills represent one of the largest sources of GHG emissions from the waste sector which ultimately contributes to the global warming.

Anaerobic digestion is another option widely used in Western countries. It is the process by which organic matter such as animal or food waste is broken down to produce biogas and bio-fertilizer. This process happens in the absence of oxygen in a sealed, oxygen-free tank called an anaerobic digester. However, this requires huge investment and resources from the ends of the public sector which is again lacking in Pakistan. However, this procedure has potential of reducing the food waste to measurably low levels, if implemented.

Fortification/nutrification is another option though not very popular and still under research. The food waste such as seeds of the fruits and peels of the vegetables can be dried, reduced in sample size and used as fortification in the flour/food. These contain small amounts of fibers, flavonoids, carotenoids and other bioactive compounds. This will not only reduce the food waste but also scale up the nutrition. This process is cheap yet practical and achievable for Pakistan. However, this procedure not only required research but also compliance of the industries to the fact that waste and peel is being utilized.
Food wastage is one of the most untalked about problem of Pakistan and it needs awareness campaigns as well as advocacy drives to highlight the issue. Bringing the attention towards this can initiate solutions to many dimensions of the food wastage mitigation outcome.


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