AgriFood-WP 2013:8

Food waste among Swedish households - much ado about nothing?

The fact that households in the OECD throw away food that is perfectly eatable has caused some debate and calls for actions to reduce such “unnecessary” waste of food have been articulated. There seems to be two primary triggers for the concern: the envi-ronment and world hunger. Our analyses show that:

  • Even if the food waste could be eliminated without any cost to the households, the environmental effects would be small. However, consumers in developing countries would benefit from lower world market prices on food.
  • Important reasons for food waste among households are that food is cheap, easily decays, and that the households’ time is valuable.
  • The households’ waste of food could be reduced by raising the price of food.
  • Raising the VAT on animal products in the EU would only reduce agriculture’s negative impact on the environment marginally. The effect on world market food prices and, hence, on consumers in developing countries, would also be limited.