Poor government maths on food waste

In: Uncategorized

7 Jul 2008

The government is having yet another go at people for wasting food (see 8 May 2008 post). A key problem with the argument – leaving aside its snobbery and paternalism – is the poor maths involved. According to a BBC news story on the Cabinet Office report:

“A government study says the UK wastes 4m tonnes of food every year, adding £420 to a family’s shopping bills.”

Yet if you do the sums this works out as very little. Assuming the average household size is about 2.4 people I estimate it means about 48p per person per day. Or in terms of weight it is about 183g.

Considering how busy people are this is a remarkably low wastage rate. It is even more striking considering that the food is often fresh and free of preservatives – making waste even greater.

The news story also make a completely illegitimate comparison:

“The Cabinet Office report claims that up to 40% of food harvested in developing countries can be lost before it is consumed, due to the inadequacies of processing, storage and transport.”

Such waste is the result of factors such as a poor road network and lack of electricity. It is linked to low levels of development rather than some kind of moral failure by individuals or families.

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