Israeli supermarkets, groceries, open markets and food distributors wasted some 400,000 tons of food last year, worth 4.2 billion shekels ($1.2 billion), a joint study by the nonprofit food bank Leket and the consulting company BDO released on Tuesday showed.
The main reasons for the losses were the expiration of the products' sell-by date, aesthetic defects in the packaging or food itself and damage done to it during distribution, the report said. Most of the unused food was disposed of.
About a third of all food produced in Israel — equal to 2.3 million tons or 19.5 billion shekels — is never consumed, it said.
Leket and BDO estimated that 1.1 million tons of that total, worth 7 billion shekels, could have been used. And, even if only 20% of that recoverable food was salvaged it would be enough to solve the problem of food insecurity in Israel, the study said.
“This report reveals the enormous amount of food that could be saved if only there was greater awareness and adequate regulation,” said Leket Israel CEO Gidi Kroch. “About 18% of Israel’s population lives with nutritional insecurity, while Israel is ranked in 18th place in nutritional insecurity among OECD countries and ninth in spending on food for personal consumption.”
The report, the third annual study the organization has published, estimates that about 11% of all bread and baked goods is wasted during distribution and selling as are 11% of all fresh produce, 5% of all meat, 2% of dairy products and 1% of frozen food.
Leket said it had rescued some 15,500 tons of fruits and vegetables last year and collected 2.3 million prepared meals from caters and cafeterias with a combined value of 150 million shekels.
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Leket has been working with the agriculture and welfare ministries for the last two years on collecting and distributing food and called on other ministries to pitch in to make distribution of wasted food a nationwide project.
Chen Herzog, BDO’s chief economist, said Israel lagged behind most of Western countries is establishing policies to save food, a failure he estimated cost the economy 4.5 billion shekels annually.
Reducing food wastage would also help consumers, said Kroch. “Retailers want to earn a profit and their pricing includes losses they pass on to the consumer. BDO estimates if no food was wasted prices would fall 6%,” he said.