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A worker sweeps up broken watermelons on the floor

A worker sweeps up watermelons at a wholesale market in Chongqing, China. Waste from households accounts for only a small fraction of China’s discarded food. Credit: China Photos/Getty

Sustainability

China wastes almost 30% of its food

Out-of-home dining accounts for some of the nation’s wasted food, but much more is lost during food storage and processing.

More than a quarter of food produced for human consumption in China gets lost along the supply chain or lands on rubbish heaps.

Liu Gang at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense and his colleagues looked at data from field surveys and reviewed the published literature to assess the ultimate fate of food produced in the nation of 1.4 billion people. They estimate that around 350 million tonnes of China’s annual farm product, or about 27%, is discarded by retailers, restaurants or consumers — or is ruined and disposed of before reaching retail level.

Although almost half of the loss occurs during food storage and processing, out-of-home eating, including at food stalls, restaurants and canteens, produces some 45 million tonnes of food waste each year, the researchers found.

Food waste on such a large scale threatens environmental and sustainability goals, the scientists say. To reduce waste, the authors suggest, among other steps, that rural Chinese households use more-efficient storage systems and that urban restaurants reduce portions and encourage patrons to take their leftovers.

More Research Highlights...

Selected materials found in the gut contents of Tollund Man

The intestinal contents of a man killed in a prehistoric ritual (clockwise from upper left): barley, charred food that had been encrusted in a clay pot, flax seeds and sand. Credit: Peter Steen Henriksen, the Danish National Museum

Archaeology

The guts of a ‘bog body’ reveal sacrificed man’s final meal

Tollund Man, who lived more than 2,000 years ago, ate well before he was hanged.
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