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Food Loss in History. Insights into the food produced but never consumed

Food Loss in History. Insights into the food produced but never consumed


This project outlines a study on food losses in Modern Times which explores reasons,magnitude and features of food wastage in the past. The research will focus on northern Italy, although, whenever allowed, a comparative perspective will be adopted, providing insights into the European scenario. By ‘food loss’ literature refers to the food produced and yet turned inedible for a number of reasons: nowadays, as well as in the past, food loss accounts for a significant part of the overarching term ‘food wastage’. Essentially food loss remains distinct from ‘food waste’, since the former takes place at production, post-harvest and processing stages, whilst the latter, much more widely debated, occurs only at the end of the food chain. Focusing on well-documented and highly representative case-studies,this research will investigate the incidence of grain losses as a whole, its core features and its main consequences against the backdrop of pre-industrial Europe. Accounting records combined with relevant scientific literature of the time will cast a light on grain losses occurring at storage and processing stages. By bringing new data on cereal preservation in a chemical-free setting, this study will provide an original contribution to the current food wastage debate.
Unlike food waste, commonly treated as a cultural phenomenon, food loss tends to be accounted as a mere technical issue, therefore disengaging humanities and social sciences specialists as a whole. This study will highlight to what extent cultural aspects, such as scientific knowledge, belief system and local policy would play a role in this process. As a matter of fact, food loss is still nowadays considered as a prominent issue even in areas endowed with adequate facilities and avant-garde technologies, pointing out that innovative models for future supply chains need an holistic and creative approach to which historical knowledge can be highly beneficial.
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Piazza Dell'Ateneo Nuovo 1
20126 Milano


Activity type

Higher or Secondary Education Establishments

EU Contribution

€ 180 277,20

Project information

Grant agreement ID: 797802


Ongoing project

  • Start date

    1 January 2019

  • End date

    31 December 2020

Funded under:


  • Overall budget:

    € 180 277,20

  • EU contribution

    € 180 277,20

Coordinated by: