The issue of food loss and waste is vital for minimising resource consumption and CO2 emissions. In particular, reducing fruit and vegetable loss and waste would contribute to keeping the food system within planetary boundaries. At the same time, food loss occurrence from primary production up to the store is underestimated and receives relatively little scientific and political attention. This case study focuses on specific food loss drivers, namely retailers' quality standards and business practices. It provides answers to the questions of how and to which extent standards and practices of the large German retailing company Lidl induce food loss in the upstream supply chain of 12 fruit and vegetable crops. To this end, we conducted qualitative interviews with supply chain actors, followed by an online survey with Lidl suppliers from Germany, Italy, and Spain. Our results indicate that, on average, 15% of the total production in the field ready for harvest does not comply with the retailer's product requirements. While most of it is marketed elsewhere, around 6% of the total production become food loss (non-harvest, animal feed, disposal, non-food items) as a direct consequence of these requirements. Retailer-specific pesticide residue limits and calibre (mass and size) followed by shape and sorting requirements are the most relevant product standards inducing food loss. The retailer's business practices such as insufficiently synchronised advertisement campaigns, return deliveries, short-notice quantity call-offs and improvable quantity planning and ordering processes add onto this. Many suppliers do not view the retailer-specific product requirements and practices as drivers of food loss and report low shares of substandard products. However, methodological constraints must be considered, such as potential selection biases, underreporting in questionnaire surveys and the study focus on suppliers rather than upstream primary producers. From this study, concrete recommendations can be drawn for retailers to adjust and handle their product requirements and business practices in order to prevent food loss at upstream supply chain stages.

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