Dr John Ingram, the food security leader at the Natural Environment Research Council, said reducing food waste was high on the global agenda, “but not high enough”.
Speaking at a Westminster Food and Nutrition Forum seminar on food security in March, Ingram, who is based at the University of Oxford, said more research was needed on how public attitudes could be influenced with regard to waste, to complement the research on increasing production.
‘Head on the block’
“I might put my head on the block and say that every dollar spent on how to reduce waste will have a bigger impact than one dollar spent on how to improve more,” he said.
“Waste is an insidious problem it is hard to measure and the tragedy is it is often too late to do anything once it has been noticed.”
Ingram told delegates it needed to be understood why there was a conflict between what people say and think, and what they do.
While 90% of people agree that the UK wastes too much food, between £250 and £400 worth of food is still wasted from each household every year, he said.
More investment needed
“A lot more investment is need in [researching] how we bring about change in society. The road signs are clear, but at the moment we are mumbling around in the fog.
“4,000 kilocalories (kcal) are produced per person per day, but around 2,000kcal are wasted. In most of the world this happens on the farm or via distribution, but in the UK and US much of this is in foodservice or the home,” he said.
Meanwhile, a new report from the Waste & Resources Action Programme, ‘Consumer Attitudes to Food Waste and Food Packaging’, reinforced the view that consumers did not realise the important role packaging played in reducing food waste, particularly once they got products home. While there is recognition that packaging is important to protect food on its way to, and in, the store, only 13% of consumers believed it could play the same role in the home.