Food waste can refer to a reduction of edible food resources, and can occur at any point of the food supply chain. The definition also covers food that has expired or spoiled due to such factors as neglect, inefficient stock management, improper storage, or economic behavior.

Food waste is often regarded as part of food loss although the difference between the two terms is not clearly outlined. In different countries in the world, food security is inadequate, and millions of people face starvation annually. Reduction of the food waste is seen as a way to combat hunger.

Below, the amount and type of food waste that occurs on each continent will be outlined, as ranked by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN.

South and Southeast Asia

The estimated per capita food loss in this region on a yearly basis is 120 kg. The dominant crop cultivated in South and Southeast Asia is rice in addition to other crops such as cassava, coconut, and soybean. This region is home to many lower-income nations where most food losses are experienced during harvesting, storage, and transportation. Poor facilities, inadequate equipment, faulty distribution infrastructure, and insufficient storage capacity are the primary causes of food waste in this region.

Sub-Saharan Africa

An estimated 170 kg of food waste per capita is recorded in Sub-Saharan Africa annually. The most vulnerable food resources to waste are vegetables, fruits, tubers, and roots. Most of the food losses in this region are experienced between harvest and consumption. Sub-Saharan Africa is home to millions of small-scale farmers who lack efficient processing and storage facilities, and in most instances, foods such as corn and maize are infested or contaminated while in storage.

North Africa, West & Central Asia

North Africa, West, and Central Asia account for 210 kg food waste per capita every year. The most food loss in this region occurs at production to the retailing stage while the rest occurs at the consumption stage. Cassava, olives, and soybeans are some of the most dominant crops in this region. In the case of milk production, the most food loss takes place in the post-harvest and distribution stages in North Africa, West, and Central Asia.

Latin America

The estimated food loss per capita in Latin America is 220 kg yearly. 200 kg of this loss happens between production and retailing while the rest occurs during consumption. The food resources most affected by food waste in Latin America include soybean and cassava, as well as the typical culprits of fruits and vegetables.


An estimated 280 kg food waste per capita is recorded in Europe annually. 190 kg of food loss occurs from production to retailing, and 90 kg is accounted for during consumption. The EU estimates that about 88 million tons of food are lost in the region annually. Commonly wasted food in Europe includes fruits, vegetables, and meat.

North America

North America accounts for 300 kg per capita food loss every year. Nearly 200 kilograms of this amount is lost between production and retail. North America also has high rates of food wasted in households. In the US for example, the average household discards an estimated 215 kg of food annually. In Toronto, Canada, about $10 million is spent every year to get rid of food resources not yet decomposed. More than 30% of fruits and vegetables are not stocked on store shelves since they do not meet the aesthetics standards of picky North American consumers.

Curbing Food Waste

Food waste occurs at all the stages from the farm to the household. In developing nations, food loss is seen as a product of poor harvesting and storage facilities, poor infrastructure, and premature harvesting. Governments in these countries should invest in infrastructure and also empower farmers regarding training and other oversight initiatives.

Overproduction in developed countries could be reduced by coordination between farmers. Additionally, the private selling of food near consumers has been identified as one way of bypassing the stringent qualities supermarkets impose on size, shape, and appearance of food commodities. Public awareness is also critical - especially in industrialized countries where there is an abundance of food resources.

Countries by their Estimated Food Loss

RankRegionEstimated Yearly Per Capita Food Loss, kg
1South and Southeast Asia120
2Subsaharan Africa170
3North Africa, West and Central Asia210
4Latin America220
6North America300