A major research work conducted by FUSIONS was aimed at identifying the main causes of food waste generation all along the food supply chain.

The causes of food waste generation are multiple, and the study enabled their classification: thirteen questionnaires were filled in by the FUSIONS’ experts, who brought to light 286 current causes of food waste. The analytical approach of the study was organised by a matrix combing the seven food supply chain segments (primary production; processing of agricultural staples; food processing and packaging; wholesale and logistics; retail and markets; food service; households) and three context categories:

  • Category 1: Technology development (i.e. the Technological Context)
  • Category 2: Food supply chain management, including business/economy and legislation/policies (i.e. the Institutional Context)
  • Category 3: Consumers’ behaviours and lifestyles (i.e. the Social Context)

Context categories

Grouping of identified drivers of current food waste causes


Drivers inherent to characteristics of food, and of its production and consumption, where technologies have become limiting

Drivers related to collateral effects of modern technologies

Drivers related to suboptimal use of, and mistakes in the use of food processing technology and chain management

Institutional (business management)

Drivers not easily addressable by management solutions

Drivers addressable at macro level

Drivers addressable within the business units

Institutional (legislation and policy)

Agricultural policy and quality standards

Food safety, consumer health, and animal welfare policies

Waste policy, tax, and other legislation


Drivers related to social dynamics which are not readily changeable

Drivers related to individual behaviours which are not readily changeable

Drivers related to individual behaviours modifiable through information and increased awareness

On the basis of the 286 items classified by the FUSIONS team as current causes for food waste, the experts identified 105 drivers. Among them, 17 were imputable to primary production, 9 to processing of agricultural staples, 14 to food processing and packaging, 15 to wholesale and logistics, 18 to retail and markets, 13 to food services and 19 to households.

Food waste is a wide and multifaceted problem: considering the food supply chain as a whole enables to grasp the complexity of the issue. This methodological choice also gives us a glimpse of the interrelated nature of the determinants of food waste. It concludes on the possibility to act in a relatively short term and the necessity to design solutions which take into account the composite nature of the food supply chain.

The full report is available in the FUSIONS Publication section.

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no 311972.
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