Tomra Food recently drew attention, in a press release, to the fact that the issue of food waste is rife across all aspects of the supply chain and all corners of the globe. There isn’t just one solution to help reduce the impacts of food waste, however actionable steps can be taken to lessen the amount of food wasted.
Consumer Mindset Needs to Change
One of the biggest factors in the battle against food waste is changing consumer behavior to adopt a more efficient mindset and move from a “throw away” mentality.
According to data supplied by Tomra, in North America and Europe, the annual waste per consumers is between 95-115 kg a year, while consumers in sub-Saharan Africa, south and south-eastern Asia each throw away only 6-11kg a year. It terms of monetary value, food losses and waste amounts to roughly US680bn in industrialized countries and USD310bn in developing ones.
There are a number of issues at play here. One of the most-often cites is that wealthier societies have created a throw-away consumers culture that sees more than 50m tones of fresh fruit and vegetables being discarded across Europe every year, often because the produce is thought to be too ugly.
Supermarkets are often blamed for enabling food waste, with mountains of unsold food that could be redistributed instead of being thrown away, based on estimated “best before” dates applied to food that is often still safe to eat.
This again comes to a consumer mindset – if the supermarket has determined that a piece of fruit or vegetable has passed its sell-by-date, it will more than likely end up being wasted, despite the probability that it would be still be fine to consume.
There are also inadequate processes for redistributing wasted produce to food banks and those in need. In a welcome move, France became the first country in 2016 to ban supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food, forcing them instead to donate it to charities and food banks. Italy has since then introduced a similar law, where it’s made easier for companies to donate unsold food, and Australia has set targets to reduce its food waste by 50% by 2030.
A requirement or desire for freshness plays a big part in driving supermarket and consumer throwaway cultures, but the Internet of Things (IoT) could offer a potential solution for this problem in the form of sensor technology at any given time based on real-time measurements of food quality parameters.
The entire article will be available in the upcoming September/October 2019 print issue of Frozen Food Europe.