The study, published on Wednesday in the Journal Environmental Research Letters, looked at data from six countries to analyse the water and nitrogen resources lost in the EU through consumer food waste.
Based at the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, researchers found on average each person in the EU wastes 123 kilograms (kg) of food each year, of which 97kg could be saved.
The waste equates to 12% of all food reaching consumers.
It found nearly 80 percent of all food waste is “avoidable” and that the UK is the worst offender, claiming Brits waste on average 153kg per year, equal to 400g per day – the equivalent of a tin of beans per person every day.
Davy Vanham, European Commission’s Joint Research Centre – “In some ways it’s good that this waste is ‘avoidable’, because it means we’re able to do something about it. A lot of food is still ‘good’ but is thrown away when it passes its sell-by date”
In Romania, where food waste is the lowest of all member states, the equivalent of an apple a day per person is wasted, the study found.
The study said that averaged over all EU citizens it amounts to 22mtonnes of food each year.
Education of how the public can shop more carefully and plan their consumption would help cut the amount discarded, the researchers said.
“In some ways it’s good that this waste is ‘avoidable’, because it means we’re able to do something about it,” said Davy Vanham of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, who led the work. “A lot of food is still ‘good’ but is thrown away when it passes its sell-by date.”
The study used data from Britain, The Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, Germany and Romania.
It found vegetables, fruit and cereals accounted for the bulk of the avoidable food waste, partly because they tend to have a shorter shelf life. But the study found that meat also goes to waste, and this has a greater impact on nitrogen and water resources.
The research team was able to study only six of the 28 EU member states properly because data from the other countries were not as reliable, Vanham said.