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Malnutrition, overnutrition and food waste

Changes in consumers’ diets have an impact on their health and the environment.

There is a huge discrepancy between diets. Globally, there are more than a billion obese (overnutrition) and 815 million malnourished people (malnutrition) (Bilali et al, 2018).

While in some countries, people starve to death, in others people are dying from overweight and diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Malnutrition is not only a phenomena from developing countries, but also affects the diet of a great number of people in developed countries (Bilali et al, 2018).

Although hunger affects more people in developing countries, all countries worldwide still facing problems about food waste/losses (Bilali et al, 2018).

Food waste consists on the disposal of huge amounts of food while it is processed, transported, at points of sale and among customers. If only ¼ of the food wasted globally could be saved, it would be enough to feed 870 million people worldwide (Capone et al, 2014). Therefore, this is one of the main effects of food unsustainability, which reflects in currently food systems. In addition, food waste can harm the planet, by contributing to climate changes (FAO, 2017).

When almost 1 billion people die of hunger in the world every year, about 1/3 of the food is wasted worldwide (Capone et al, 2014).

Parfitt et al, 2010 state that while food losses occur along the supply chain (production, post-harvest and processing), food waste occurs at the end of the supply chain (retail and consumption).

Food waste / losses are related to edible food for human consumption (Gustavsson et al, 2011).

Food waste can be categorized as preventable (when food could have been eaten, such as leftovers, spoiled or out of date food) or non-preventable (consists of parts of food that cannot be eaten, such as bones, shells, etc.) (Gustavsson et al, 2011).

Around 30-50% of the food produced, globally, does not reach the final consumer (Capone et al, 2014).


Charles, H. Godfray, J. Garnett. Food security and sustainable intensification.(2014). Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. London. UK. 369:369:20120273.

Capone, R. Bilali, H.E. Debs, P. Cardone, G. Driouech, N. Food system sustainability and food security: Connecting the dots. (2014). Journal of Food Security. Bari. Italy. 2(1):13-22.

Bilali, H.E. Callenius, C. Strassner, C. Probst, L. (2018). Food and nutrition security and sustainability transitions in food systems. (2018). Food and Energy Security. Viena. Áustria.1-20.

FAO. The future of food and agriculture – Trends and challenges. (2017). Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Rome. Italy. ISBN 978-92-5-109551-5.

Parfitt, J. Barthel, M. Macnaughton, S. Food waste within food supply chains: quantification and potential for change to 2050. (2010). Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. 365.3065-3081.

Gustavsson, J. Cederberg, C. Sonesson, U. van Otterdijk, R. Meybeck, A. Global food losses and food waste: extent, causes and prevention. (2011). Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Rome. Italy. ISBN 978-92-5-109551-5.

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