China wastes huge amounts of food

If someone invites you out for dinner in China, chances are you won’t go hungry. Tradition dictates that the host order a lavish spread for his or her guests, even if much of it goes uneaten.

But these generous practices are contributing to huge amounts of food waste in China, researchers suggest in Environmental Science & Technology. About one-fifth of the grain produced in the country is wasted, they estimate, and precious water and land along with it.

The team calculated the amount of food lost “from field to fork,” whether in harvest, storage, transport, processing, or by consumers. People wasted an average of 7 percent of their grains at home, but that number nearly tripled in restaurants. Overall, China loses 19 percent of its grains, or about 82 million tonnes, each year. About 20-30 percent of fruits and vegetables, 5-15 percent of eggs, and 3-15 percent of meat is also wasted, the team estimates.

Those food losses translate to water and land waste. About 135 billion cubic meters of water was used to produce unused crops in 2010, the authors say. And 26 million hectares of land “were used to produce food that was lost or went to waste,” they write. “This is equivalent to the total arable land of Mexico”.

The problem could be partly addressed by educating the public about the benefits of conserving food, the team says. But Americans shouldn’t feel too smug. Other research suggests that the United States wastes about 40 percent of its food. Roberta Kwok | 2 September 2013

Source: Liu, J. et al. 2013. Food losses and waste in China and their implication for water and land. Environmental Science & Technology doi: 10.1021/es401426b.

Environmental Impact of Food Waste in China

Image © robinimages2013 | Shutterstock



  • tom September 4, 2013 at 7:47 am

    One would think that the large amount of food allegedly wasted in Chinese restaurants would in fact be passed on the employees families and friends sort of “under the table” as it were. There would obviously be many people that would be anxious to take advantage of this uneaten food in China. This certainly goes on to some extent in the US as I happen to know, so the amount of food said to be to “wasted” may not be very accurate. Here in the U.S, it is scandalous and ridiculous that a huge amount of food is thrown away because it is said to have passed its serve by date (such as bread and hamburger),when in fact it is still perfectly edible and usable.


  • Mattias Wieland September 5, 2013 at 2:22 pm

    I’m glad that last sentence was put in because I was just going to say: 7%? Wouldn’t it be great if we could get anywhere near as low in the western world! Food waste is a largely tolerated, accepted and encouraged behavior.


  • Petercharlie September 21, 2013 at 1:37 am

    We know that food waste is not only the problem of china, its the problem of all places because without better decision its necessary. so if you want to remove this problem then use better Food Processing Equipment.


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