Driving Practical Solutions That Reduce Your Food Waste, Safely

Sealed Air recently attended the Global Food Safety Conference in Malaysia, where I had the honor to participate in a breakout session titled “Where Food Safety Meets Sustainability.” As a long-standing partner of the GFSI, Diversey Consulting, the Consulting arm of the Diversey Care Division of Sealed Air, organized a very interesting round table discussion in which food waste played a big role.

Consider these facts that make food waste a serious global issue that concerns us all:

  • A staggering 40 percent of the food we produce is never consumed. That translates to 1.3 billion tons of food wasted each year.
  • The amount of food wasted is four times the amount needed to feed the 800 million people who are malnourished and has a retail value of nearly $1 trillion.
  • The global food system is estimated to be responsible for up to one-third of human-related greenhouse gas emissions, representing over 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide, and farming is responsible for 70 percent of our fresh waste consumption.

Faced with issues relating to the growing populations and the associated increasing food demand, the tide in understanding food waste issues has begun to turn. In a recent Harris Poll survey commissioned by Sealed Air among U.S. grocery shoppers, consumers ranked “food waste” as their second highest concern after reliable food safety, and ahead of climate change, air pollution, and water shortages. In that same survey, nearly 80 percent of consumers indicated they would think more highly of stores and food brands that helped them to not waste the food they buy.

The reasons for food waste are complex. From a food service operator discarding a box of wilted lettuce, to a retailer rejecting a pallet of “imperfect “ apples, to a consumer throwing away food not consumed in time—food waste occurs across the supply chain, from farm to fork. Understanding the factors that affect spoilage, damage and even consumer preference is the key to developing successful strategies aimed at reducing food waste across each stage of the food supply chain. By doing so, we enhance our ability to feed the world nutritiously, safely and sustainably while minimizing environmental, social and economic impacts.

Food safety and food waste are inextricably linked. Concern over food safety is one of the reasons food is discarded, either because of reasons such as visible spoilage, potential temperature abuse or because food has passed an expiration date.

Consider these ways to reduce and manage food waste in your supply chain: 

  • Cold Chain: Ensuring proper temperature controls during transportation is essential to ensure safety and quality of foods before it reaches the store or the restaurant.  Modern technology can help manage and monitor temperature controls throughout the supply chain. For example, TempTRIP, a unique in-transit temperature monitoring system, provides temperature monitoring capabilities during transportation and storage of foods in the distribution center.
  • Packaging Innovations: Look for packaging systems that prevent physical damage during distribution and extend shelf life of perishable food products. Use of modified atmosphere packaging, for example, is a proven method to extend the freshness ofmany food products from pasta to cheese to meats. In addition, packaging that allows restaurants or consumers to use what they need, or to portion food, can prevent avoidable food waste.
  • Staff Training: Training your staff on basic food safety teaches important information on using day labels for perishable and high risk foods, stock rotation and proper storage- all important considerations for minimizing food waste in your operation.
  • Track your Waste: Establish a simple and easy food waste tracking system- teach your staff to measure food waste before and after service. Diversey Consulting can help your operation set up this system.

Both consumers and the food industry have a role in understanding and responding to the challenges around food waste.  At the end of the day, preventing food waste is good for our society, our environment and our economy.

For more about food safety, watch this Diversey Consulting video:

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