What is food wastage?

This toolkit focuses on food wastage, which is the decrease in edible food mass that was originally intended for human consumption[1], in line with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) definition[2]. Food wastage includes both food losses, which occur at the production, post-harvest and processing stages, and food waste[3], which arises at the retail and consumption stages. We speak of “food wastage” to clearly distinguish the concept from waste, which is defined in the EU’s Waste Framework Directive, and to emphasize the need for a supply chain approach.


Inedible crop residues[4], inedible animal parts and by-products, as defined in Article 5 of the Waste Framework Directive, are not considered food wastage, nor are food products that are sent for redistribution but stay within the human food chain. Nonetheless, we are also engaged in finding uses for inedible items. See “What about the inedible items?” for examples.  

This toolkit takes into consideration that what is ‘inedible’ is culturally determined in some cases. In accordance with the European Economic and Social Committee’s Opinion[5], the classification of what is inedible or unusable should remain flexible because as knowledge and technology advance, items that are currently considered inedible or unusable as by-products could become edible or usable.  

[1] Food mass that was not originally intended for human consumption is therefore not considered food wastage

[2] Idem

[3] Idem 2

[4] includes (inedible) residues from production

[5] Civil society’s contribution to a strategy for prevention and reduction of food losses and food waste, European Economic and Social Committee, 20 March 2013.