A systematic review of food waste audit methods in hospital foodservices: development of a consensus pathway food waste audit tool (2022 Mar)

Cook N, Collins J, Goodwin D, Porter J. A systematic review of food waste audit methods in hospital foodservices: development of a consensus pathway food waste audit tool. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2022;35:68–80. https://doi.org/10.1111/jhn.12928

Open access link to article: 

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/jhn.12928 (can be read freely online)

Relevant to: 

Hospital foodservice (other institutional settings could also benefit)


The present review aimed to collate reported methods and establish a preferred approach for conducting a waste audit in a hospital foodservice setting.  

Bottom line for nutrition practice: 

Measure aggregate food and food-related waste in hospital foodservices on a regular basis to generate baseline data, identify problem areas, and possibly demonstrate improvements in waste levels over time.


Background: To understand, monitor and compare the scope of food waste in hospital foodservices, it is essential to measure food waste using a standardised method. The aims of this systematic review were to: (i) describe and critique the methodological features of waste audits used in hospital foodservice settings that measure aggregate food and food- related waste and (ii) develop a consensus tool for conducting a food waste audit in a hospital foodservice setting.

Methods: Seven electronic databases were searched for peer reviewed literature, and 17 Google Advanced searches located grey literature that described food waste audit methods previously used or developed for hospital foodservices. Study selection and quality assessment occurred in duplicate. Data describing the audit method, its feasibility, and strengths and limitations were extracted and synthesised to develop a consensus tool.

Results: Eight peer reviewed and nine grey literature documents describing a variety of food waste audit methods were found. The most common practices were 2- week data collection (n = 5), foodservice staff collecting data (n = 6), measuring food waste only (n = 11), measuring food waste at main meals (n = 5) and using electronic scales to measure waste (n = 12). A consensus tool was developed that proposes a method for preparing, conducting, and analysing data from a food waste audit.

Conclusions: This review used published evidence to develop the first ever food waste audit consensus tool for hospital foodservices to use and measure food and food-related waste. Future research is needed to apply and test this tool in practice.

Details of results: 

The development of a consensus tool to support hospital foodservice to make decisions on how to structure their food and food-related waste audit including:

  • how much data do they want to collect (1 day or 2 weeks),
  • what type of data do they want to collect (food waste, food-related waste, or both),
  • when do they want to collect data (before, during, or after service),
  • what equipment they will need (weighing scales, containers),
  • where they will collect data (patient kitchen, staff cafeteria, or both),
  • how to complete the audit (step by step methods) and
  • how will they analyse the data (per patient, total waste, cost).

Of additional interest: 


Editor’s comment:  


Conflict of interest/ Funding:  

No conflicts reFunding provided by Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Food, Monash University for PhD candidate Nathan Cook to complete the research.

External relevant links:  

Blog article about the research:  https://monashnutrition.blogspot.com/2021/09/whats-measured-is-managed-new-evidenced.html

Relevant Food Waste resources in this ICDA SFS Toolkit:

Corresponding author: 

Nathan Cook, nathan.cook@monash.edu

Transparency | Diversity | Dynamism | Evidence-based |

Dietetic EducatorFoodserviceResearch