New food waste research from Karlstad University in Sweden reveals that bananas are the most-wasted produce item in supermarkets.
University researchers measured the food waste in the produce section of three supermarkets to identify the seven worst offenders according to three matrices: how much of each type of fruit or vegetable was discarded, the climate impact of this waste, and the financial loss for stores.
The items identified, which included apples, tomatoes, lettuce, sweet peppers, pears, and grapes, represented nearly half of the total food waste of the stores. Lettuce alone represented 17 percent of the costs of wasted fruit and vegetables.
“In defense of the banana, they also represent a big turnover,” Lisa Mattsson, one of the researchers behind the study, told Science Nordic. “We love bananas but we do not buy them if they have any brown spots, so it is the consumers’ fault as well that so much get thrown away."
While the popularity of bananas, apples, and tomatoes contributed to their position on the list, Mattson also noted that a higher proportion of sweet peppers and pears go to waste as compared to their total sales.
Last year, Norway made a goal of cutting food waste in half by 2030. The country has announced several initiatives to contribute to this reduction, including programs organizing food handouts to charitable organizations and a transition away from “use before” dates and towards “best by” dates.
Experts estimate that approximately one-third of food is wasted worldwide; in developed countries, approximately 40 percent of food waste occurs at retail and consumer levels, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
“At retail level, large quantities of food are wasted due to quality standards that over-emphasize appearance,” reports the organization, which also notes that fresh produce has the highest wastage rate of any category.