Nearly 60% of food produced in Canada – amounting to 35.5 million metric tons – is lost and wasted annually. Of that, 32% – equaling 11.2 million metric tons of lost food – is avoidable and edible that could be redirected to support people in local communities. The total financial value of this potentially rescuable lost and wasted food amounts to $49.46 billion.

These findings are the result of a year-long research project undertaken by Second Harvest, Canada, and Value Chain Management International, Canada.

The report, funded by the Walmart Foundation, Bentonville, Ark., is said to be the first to use front-line, primary data from the entire food supply chain and create a standardized system of measurement that can be used by any food business – in Canada and globally – to track and reduce food loss and waste.

"There is no social, environmental or business case for food waste, and yet it has become standard operating procedure in the food industry, not just in Canada, but globally," says Lori Nikkel, chief executive officer, Second Harvest. "But, with this research, we all now have the data and the tools to transform this crisis into a triple-bottom-line win across the value chain."

Based on responses from more than 700 food industry leaders across Canada, The Avoidable Crisis of Food Waste report identifies approximately 30 root causes of food loss and waste, including: 

  • The acceptance of waste by the food industry as the cost of doing business, a belief sustained by low tipping and landfill fees;
  • Conservative best before dates that lead to industry and consumers throwing away food that is still safe and edible;
  • Pressure on producers to provide 100% on-shelf availability and aesthetic perfection, particularly with fruits and vegetables, leading to over-production; and
  • Reluctance in the food industry to donate safe, edible surplus food despite Good Samaritan legislation that already exists to facilitate donation.

The report also provides more than 100 actions for industry, organizations and government to begin to quantify food loss and waste, address the negative economic and environmental impacts and support community food programs.

"There is more than enough food produced in Canada and the world that no one ever needs to be hungry. This report provides us with concrete solutions that will allow food to get to those who need it," says Nikkel.