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Why waste so much if we love food?

Singaporeans tossed out some 675 million kilos of food in 2011, according to the National Environment Agency, a vast amount that exposes the casual attitudes and habits of living in a food paradise and land of plenty.

This may seem surprising for Singapore, a small island that imports most of what is consumed. Singaporeans are second to none in their love of food, yet one routinely sees unfinished plates getting scraped into rubbish bins, from hawker centres to high-end restaurants and catered affairs.

It is not just a Singapore problem; it is a part of a global problem of growing proportions.

Food loss and food waste occur at alarming rates - about one-third of all the food produced for human consumption, some 1.3 billion tonnes of food worth around US$1 trillion (S$1.25 trillion) - is lost or wasted each year. At the same time, world food demand grows; about one billion people are undernourished globally.

Food loss typically happens in the way food is harvested, transported, processed and stored. One example: Staggering amounts of rice are lost to substandard farm storage facilities vulnerable to pest infestation and moisture.

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