The U.S. Wastes More Food Per Person Than Other Developed Countries, Report Says

Wilson Chapman

Americans annually toss away more than 200 pounds of usable food per person, more than citizens in any other wealthy country, according to a new study.

Meanwhile, citizens in France, the Netherlands and Canada are best among high-income countries in employing sustainable food practices, according to the report, "Fixing Food 2018," published by the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition and the Economist Intelligence Unit Food Sustainability study.

The report comes as July 29 is marked this year as Earth Overshoot Day, the annual date when humans consume more resources than the Earth is able to regenerate in a year. Five decades ago the overshoot date was Dec. 29, according to the Barilla Center. One-third of all food produced in the world ends up lost or wasted, according to the study.

The report tracks and measures 67 countries' sustainable food practices based on three factors: food loss and waste, sustainable agriculture and nutritional challenges. The countries were rated in those categories from 0 to 100, with 100 representing the highest sustainability. The category scores were then averaged and weighted to provide the countries' overall food sustainability index rating. The countries were separated into three categories based on income and ranked based on their ratings.

Of the 35 high-income countries, France ranked first with a rating of 76.1. The European nations was the top country for the prevention of food loss and waste, 16th for sustainable agriculture and the eighth for nutritional challenges. According to the report, France has been at the forefront of several important food sustainability policies and initiatives, such as requiring supermarkets to donate leftover food to local charities. Other countries in the top five for high income countries were the Netherlands, Canada, Finland and Japan. The East Asian country ranked first in the prevention of nutritional challenges, while Austria ranked first for sustainable agriculture.

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The United States ranked No. 22 out of 35 countries on the high-income list. The U.S has the second-worst nutritional challenges rating, above only Saudi Arabia, and was ranked 11th in food loss and waste and 22nd in sustainable agriculture. According to the report, although the U.S only loses 0.8% of food harvested, the country is the worst in terms of food waste; annually, the U.S wastes 95.1 kilograms (209 pounds) of food per person.

The lowest ranked high-income country on the food sustainability index was the United Arab Emirates. The UAE's overall rating of 52.3 was the lowest overall rating of all countries surveyed, lower than Bulgaria, ranked last among the 23 middle-income countries surveyed, and Sierra Leone, ranked last among the nine low-income countries surveyed. The UAE ranked last in terms of food loss and waste, and low in the other two categories. Other countries in the bottom five included Saudi Arabia, Malta, Slovakia and Slovenia. Saudi Arabia was rated last in the food sustainability and nutritional challenges factors.

Colombia ranked highest in middle-income countries, followed by China, Zambia, India and Cote d'Ivoire. Colombia had the best rating for sustainable agriculture, while China topped the nutritional challenges and food loss and waste lists. China's sustainable agriculture score was hurt by the greenhouse gases it emits via agriculture, which is the most of any country according to the report.

All nine of the low-income countries included in the study are from Africa: Rwanda, Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Mozambique and Sierra Leone. Rwanda was ranked first overall and first in sustainable agriculture and nutritional challenges. The report attributes its sustainable agriculture rating to practices such as agricultural water withdrawals on renewable sources, while the country's nutritional rating is high due to dietary patterns that are low on sugar, meat, saturated fat and sodium. The country does, however, struggle with malnourishment. Ethiopia, ranked third overall, and has the best food loss and waste rating of the nine countries.

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The report included averages of the overall scores in each of the three categories. The average for high-income countries was 68.8, followed by the low-income average of 66.4 and the middle-income average of 62.7.