Dubai: Leftover or discarded food in restaurants and extra food thrown away after celebrations have been found to be the top sources of food wastage in the UAE and two other Arab countries, a new survey has shown.

Up to 32 per cent of food wastage in the UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia is leftover or discarded food in restaurants followed by extra food that is cooked for celebrations and eventually gets thrown away (30 per cent). The wastage increases even more during Ramadan.

The study released by market research firm YouGov has also found that 48 per cent of food being wasted is left-over home-cooked or take-away food. Fruits and vegetables, dairy and canned foods were equally among the main food categories being wasted, each at 33 per cent.

At a recent food awareness session in Dubai hosted by the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, it was estimated that there is $4 billion (Dh14.69 billion) in yearly food waste in the UAE as compared to the $2.6 trillion (Dh9.5 trillion) in annual food waste globally.

Underlining other issues related to food wastage, the study revealed seven types of food that are regularly being discarded based on best-before rather than expiry dates, with fresh meat topping the list at 72 per cent. It was followed by fruits and vegetables, baby foods, dairy, frozen foods, canned foods and finally grains.

In the same study, which included a total sample of 1,844 YouGov panelists surveyed across the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, 67 per cent of the respondents said they believe more awareness and educational campaigns will reduce food wastage.

A total of 58 per cent said they support the idea of setting up a Food Bank to donate unused, safe-to-consume food items, while 51 per cent agreed food donation drives involving supermarkets and retail outlets will help in addressing the issues of food wastage.

A big portion of the respondents, 71 per cent, said they are aware that 2017 has been declared as the Year of Giving in the UAE and 53 per cent said they knew of the Food Bank that has been set up as part of the government initiatives in the spirit of this year’s theme.

The survey saw that 50 per cent of UAE residents expressed their willingness to donate canned items to the Food Bank with 45 per cent interested in donating grains, fruits and vegetables and 39 per cent willing to donate left-over foods.

Looking at the respondents’ perceptions of the Food Bank, 64 per cent of UAE residents said they already understand that one can donate food items to the Food Bank so the poor and those in need can withdraw these items for free.

Finally, 50 per cent believe that a Food Bank also accepts cash donations to buy food for the poor and needy and 21 per cent think that anyone can withdraw from a Food Bank at a normal or subsidised fee.