UP to 50 per cent of all food produced around the world never reaches a human stomach, according to damning new research.
The Institution of Mechanical Engineers is calling for urgent action to tackle the waste as the world population continues to grow.
The report by the membership organisation blamed inadequate infrastructure and storage facilities, overly strict sell-by dates, buy-one-get-one-free offers and consumers demanding cosmetically perfect food.
Dr Tim Fox said: “The amount of food wasted and lost around the world is staggering.
“This is food that could be used to feed the world’s growing population – as well as those in hunger today. It is also an unnecessary waste of the land, water and energy resources that were used in the production, processing and distribution of this food.
“The reasons for this situation range from poor engineering and agricultural practices, inadequate transport and storage infrastructure through to supermarkets demanding cosmetically perfect foodstuffs and encouraging consumers to overbuy through buy-one-get-one-free offers.
“As water, land and energy resources come under increasing pressure from competing human demands, engineers have a crucial role to play in preventing food loss and waste by developing more efficient ways of growing, transporting and storing foods.
“But in order for this to happen Governments, development agencies and organisations like the UN must work together to help change people’s mindsets on waste and discourage wasteful practices by farmers, food producers, supermarkets and consumers.”
Yorkshire is home to many of the UK’s main food manufacturers as well as two of the ‘Big Four’ supermarket giants, Asda and Morrisons.
The Institution’s report claims that between 1.2 to 2 billion tonnes of food produced around the world is wasted, equivalent to up to half of all production.
It also said that as much as 30 per cent of UK vegetable crops are not harvested due to exacting standards based on physical appearance, while up to half of the food bought in Europe and the USA is thrown away by the consumer.
The report claims that about 550 billion cubic metres of water is wasted globally in growing crops that never reach the consumer.
It warns that the demand for water in food production could reach 10-13 trillion cubic metres a year by 2050, which could lead to more dangerous water shortages around the world.
The UN predicts that the world’s population is set to reach around 9.5 billion by 2075.
The Institution dates back to 1847 and has around 100,000 members across the world, including 5,030 in Yorkshire.