$4.5 Billion of Food in Israel Wasted Each Year, Study Finds

Israeli consumers and farmers waste less than their American counterparts.

A garbage dump in Israel.
Ilan Assayag

Some 18 billion shekels ($4.5 billion) of food goes to waste in Israel every year, equal to 1.6% of GDP.

These data come from an analysis by food rescue organization Leket Israel and BDO Consulting Group.

Of this, 14% is wasted in the agricultural process, 7% during packaging, 8% during industrial processing, 12% during distribution and 16% once reaching consumers. In total, the distribution and marketing phases are responsible for 13.7 billion shekels in lost food every year.

A well-known figure states that some 35% of food produced around the world goes to waste.

The food waste figures include produce damaged by bad weather, or that wasn’t picked or sold in time; livestock that died before they could be slaughtered and food that was transported improperly and spoiled before it could be sold.

Israeli consumers and farmers waste less than their American counterparts. In Israel, the marketing and distribution phase is where most food goes to waste, according to the analysis.

Israeli households are thought to waste an average of 616 shekels of food a month.

The analysis believes that fully half of Israel’s wasted food could be saved, including produce that wasn’t picked or has aesthetic defects, wholesale surplus, restaurant industry surplus and food nearing its expiration date that hasn’t been sold.

Gidi Kroch, CEO of Leket Israel, said that this is the first real research into food loss in Israel, and said he hoped that decision makers would use it in order to set goals for waste reduction, similar to a recent decision in the United States to halve food loss by 2030.

“Our goal is to raise public awareness,” he said.

The problem isn’t that farmers are producing too much food, said Chen Herzog, chief economist at BDO. “We’re not willing to suffer food shortages, since that would cost us much more than food waste,” he said. Furthermore, the country needs to be prepared for some food loss due to forces of nature, he added. “The issue is that the surplus is going to waste,” he said.

Beyond the environmental impact, that lost food could be very meaningful for Israel’s poorest citizens, stated Herzog. Some 18% of Israelis are thought to suffer from food insecurity. The wealthiest Israelis spend 1,400 shekels a month per capita on food, while the poorest spend 250 shekels a month, according to National Insurance Institute figures.

Furthermore, saving one-quarter of Israel’s lost food will generate 2.1 billion shekels a year; after factoring in the environmental benefits, that figure is 5.1 billion shekels, according to the research.