BDO study reveals 2.3 million tons of food discarded in Israel last year

20 March 2018 4 min. read

A comprehensive study by the Israeli national food bank Leket and global consulting network BDO has revealed the extent of food wastage in the nation, with the amount of binned produce tipping the scales at 2.3 million tons last year.

The latest annual ‘Food Waste and Rescue’ report from Leket, Israel’s largest national food bank, conducted in conjunction with global consulting and professional services network BDO, has concluded a 2.3 million ton figure for food waste in Israel for 2017, translating to 33% of the country’s domestic production at a worth of NIS 19.5 billion (approximately US$5.6 billion).

Of the total amount, the BDO analysis estimates that that nearly half – or 1.1 million tons valued at NIS 7 billion – would be ‘rescuable’ in the sense that it remained fit for human consumption at the time of disposal. As a counterpoint, the report notes that 465,000 Israeli families, making up 18.6% of the country’s households, are currently living below the poverty-line and subject to food insecurity.Estimated Percentage of Food Waste in Israel, by sectorAs a monetary breakdown, roughly 20% of the waste (worth approximately NIS 3.8 billion) occurs at the production stage, including the agriculture, industrial and processing and packaging phases, while the remaining 80% of the value is lost through distribution (6%) and consumption (14%). Altogether, Israeli households are said to apportion on average 16% of their total budgets to food spending, with the figure rising to 20% for the lowest income brackets.

When considered as a figure per household, the monthly average loss in monetary terms is NIS 650 (nearly US$190) – with NIS 381 lost at the consumption stage, and a further NIS 142 worth discarded during retail and distribution. Per produce category, NIS 131 worth of both fruit & vegetables and grains & legumes were left uneaten each month post-distribution per household, while NIS 69 worth of fruit & vegetables and NIS 47 in meat, fish and eggs was thrown out by retailers and distributors.Monthly Value (NIS) of Food Waste per Household in IsraelRepresenting nearly half of the salvageable food wasted in Israel, at a value of NIS 3 billion, the primary reasons for food being thrown out by retailers and distributors – which include supermarkets, open markets, neighborhood grocers, and small retailers – were premature expiry dates, aesthetic flaws, packaging defects and damaged goods. 400,000 tons in total were dumped in 2017.

And in addition to these often minor defects, the wastage is largely accountable to consumer demand, with retailers compelled ‘to ensure a wide, varied and available food supply at all times.” The report states; “Food consumers will not tolerate a shortage of the food items they seek, so the loss potentially caused to retailers is far higher than the cost of offering surpluses. In other words, excess food is an inherent part of the retail sale process.”

The authors continue, however, that “the fact that excess food is discarded rather than rescued represents a market failure, and therefore one of the government's policy challenges is to create a system of incentives that will save these surpluses and transfer them to the needy.”Value of Rescuable Food in the Food ChainWhile the government can play a role in educating its citizens, food wastage at the household level was not considered rescuable for the purposes of the analysis, with the report focusing in on the edible foods which never make it to or past the shelves. The common dominator, it says, is the lack of economic viability for producers and distributors to invest in additional resources.

Yet, the report estimates that every shekel in food rescue investment translates to 3.6 shekels in direct production value – extending to 7.2 shekels in national economic worth when taking the environmental impact into account (with approximately 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions generated through the various stages of the food supply chain).

This, of course, is to say nothing of the direct, immediate social impact, with the rescue of just 20% of the food wasted in Israel every year enough to bridge the consumption gap for local families suffering from food insecurity.