Vox Repeats False Claim About Food Waste and Global Warming

On April 5, 2018, Vox.com published a video on its Twitter channel about food waste. That video includes a claim that “If global food waste were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases.” The video goes on to conclude that reducing food waste, therefore, is “one of the easiest ways to address climate change.”

This is false.

As Politifact noted in a 2017 debunking of this claim, this originated in a poorly thought out February 5, 2017 tweet from the World Food Program. The WFP, to its credit, quickly deleted the tweet after conceding that it was a lousy comparison.

World Food Program senior spokesman Steve Taravella told us they relied on a report from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. That article included a chart that said, “If food wastage were a country, it would be the third largest emitting country in the world.” FAO researchers estimated that a third of all food never makes it to the kitchen table and calculated the emissions that went in to growing and transporting those wasted tons.

The problem is, agriculture is an activity, not a place. It makes sense to compare its emissions to other activities, and no sense to rank it against countries.

“It’s comparing apples to oranges,” researcher Brian Lipinski at the World Resources Institute told us. “The number for food loss and waste is comprised of numbers from individual countries, and so the data isn’t mutually exclusive. So while the comparison to countries helps to establish the scale, flat-out labeling food loss and waste as the world’s third largest emitter is missing necessary context.”



According to Wikipedia, mochi is a

Japanese rice cake made of mochigome, a short-grain japonica glutinous rice. The rice is pounded into paste and molded into the desired shape. In Japan it is traditionally made in a ceremony called mochitsuki. While also eaten year-round, mochi is a traditional food for the Japanese New Year and is commonly sold and eaten during that time.

Mochi is apparently also occasionally deadly. According to an International Business Times report, during the 2015 New Year celebration, 9 people died in Japan from suffocating on the snack, and 18 people were hospitalized in Tokyo alone.

The sticky, glutinous dish can get stuck in the throats of those eating it–especially those who are very young or very old–causing people to suffocate.