Online surplus food and drink retailer Approved Food is backing calls for global action to prevent food waste in the wake of a new report.

The UNEP Food Waste Index 2021, published by the United Nations and co-written by the sustainable resource body WRAP, says in 2019, 931 million tonnes of food were discarded globally – the equivalent of 3.5 million fully loaded 26-tonne trucks. If laid bumper to bumper, they would circle the earth almost 10 times.

The Index is the most comprehensive international report into global food waste in homes, the food service sector and retail, taking data from 54 countries.

It found that food waste is more than a developed world problem. The amount of waste per capita is similar across high-income, upper middle-income and lower middle-income countries, with insufficient data to reach firm conclusions on low-income countries. It is thought that global consumer food waste could be up to double the size of previous estimates and it shows that action must now be taken worldwide to tackle this.

In addition to reducing emissions, tackling food waste improves food security, saves families money and eases pressure on land, water, biodiversity and waste management systems. The report points out that if food waste was a country, it would be the third largest producer of greenhouse gases, behind China and the USA.

But more than all of this, almost 700 million people are already affected by hunger; three billion people globally are unable to afford a healthy diet. The pandemic may well make this situation even worse before it gets better.

Approved Food managing director Andy Needham backed calls for global action on the problem. “Food is being wasted, yet people are hungry,” he said. “This cannot be allowed to continue. Food waste is a huge global issue – and the UNEP report shows it’s far more than a first world problem.

“Countries need to start with better measuring and then follow the UK’s Target / Measure / Act example to tackle food waste head on. Better education for consumers is then needed to tackle food waste in the home. Even something as simple as rewording ‘best before’ dates to make it clear that food is still safe to eat beyond that date can prevent food and drink being needlessly thrown away.”

Approved Food was a strategic partner in the recent Food Waste Action Week which aimed to increase awareness in UK households, the source of 70% of all food waste in this country. This sort of activity is now called for on a global scale.

Andy added: “Since we were founded 12 years ago, we have saved an estimated 25,000 tonnes of perfectly good food and drink from going to waste. We’re doing our bit, hopefully the rest of the world will follow our lead.”