Food Wastage – Industrial Food Wastage

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Continuing the discussion on Food Wastage, there are two aspects of food waste that I want to talk about over the next 2 weeks. The first is Industrial food waste, this being food ingredients or finished food products that are discarded during production or before sale/consumption and Household wastage being food that is brought into the home and discarded.

Industrial Food Wastage includes wastage from naturally grown ingredients or foods such as fruits and vegetables, food that is discarded at the point of processing (either during the process or at the point of packing) or food products or food ingredients that go over their used-by-dates that need to be discarded. It also includes the waste of food (either ingredients or finished food items) that are purchased by businesses such as supermarkets, restaurants, catering companies, airlines, farmers, etc. that are not consumed but are thrown out.

Raw ingredients and foods that are grown in nature such as grains, vegetables and fruits will have natural variation. Fruits and Vegetables for example may not be within a required specification for sale such as length, thickness, weight, shape, size, colour, or damage. Natural products will naturally vary and fruits and vegetables that are an odd shape, are too large or too small, misshapen or that have a small amount of damage (such as marks where the stem has impacted the skin) are often discarded. This type of variation may not be too much of a concern if the ingredient is going onto being further processed, such as peeled and diced frozen vegetables for example, but may be an issue where the raw material is being sold fresh to the consumer, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. My question is, for naturally grown produce, is it right for consumers to expect perfection in their fruit and vegetables?? Also, do consumers actually expect perfection or is this a benchmark put in place by those who sell these products to consumers? This often unreal expectation contributes to the discarding of tonnes of edible produce, which in turns leads to an increase in the production of greenhouse gases, wastage of the money, time and investment spent in growing, transporting, storing, marketing, packaging and handling the produce and ultimately the increased cost for fresh fruits and vegetables to the consumer??? Many supermarkets have recognised this type of wastage and are now offering consumers “Odd” or “Ugly” Fruits and Vegetables that are marketed as out of specification so there are no surprises and they are usually sold at a lower cost.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jul/13/us-food-waste-ugly-fruit-vegetables-perfect

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/oct/13/you-say-tomato-retailers-say-waste-research-finds-produce-problem

When you look into it further, the amount of perfectly edible fresh fruits and vegetables that are discarded before sale is incredible. Data taken from the OzHarvest website (https://www.ozharvest.org/fightfoodwaste/food-waste-facts/) states that globally 793 million people world wide are malnourished. If only 1 quarter (25%) of the food that is currently wasted is saved and utilised it could feed 870 million people. Only 25%. Half the fruits and vegetables grown globally are discarded and end up emitting 8% of the worlds green house gases. I highly recommend you read this website link above. If this information gets you upset and inspires you to act, look into what your local Council and Government bodies are doing to combat food wastage in your local area. Here are a few articles on food waste in Australia .

http://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2017-05-12/food-waste-innovators/8521160

http://www.environment.gov.au/protection/national-waste-policy/food-waste

For food processers who manufacture further processed foods (mainly those in packaging either shelf stable, frozen or chilled) their raw ingredients are an expensive component that needs to be managed carefully to minimise waste. Food Manufacturers invest a lot of money into their equipment and facilities, raw materials handling and into training of their staff to minimise wastage during production but wastage does inevitably happen. Businesses are keenly aware of Food Wastage and the other major issue of Sustainability as these issues become global problems and consumers begin to demand to know more about their food, how it’s produced and where it’s sourced. Companies are investing and developing sustainability programs which encompasses factors including greenhouse gas emissions, water, waste and packaging management, the sustainable sourcing of ingredients and packaging as well as looking at the carbon foot print of ingredients and resources that go into producing the everyday products you and your family’s consume. Just one of those companies is Unilever, a global manufacturing company producing a broad range of products, not just foods.  They have a strong sustainability program which they detail on their website, link below –

https://www.unilever.com.au/sustainable-living/

Food manufacturers also work closely with food distribution businesses such as FoodBank and Oz Harvest to distribute excess food stocks or ingredients to charities and people that need it. There are businesses like these popping up across communities all over the world. I’d like to talk about one of these companies OzHarvest here in Australia. OzHarvest is a food rescue organisation that collects excess food and delivers it to 1000 charities who need support all over Australia. OzHarvest do a wonderful job rescuing over 100 tonnes of food each week from over 3,000 food donors. What a fantastic way to help people in need and to help reduce food waste. Please see the links below to the Oz Harvest website and research into which businesses offer the same service in your local area. 

https://www.ozharvest.org/what-we-do/

https://www.ozharvest.org/fightfoodwaste/food-waste-facts/

The last post on this topic will be next week and will focus on Household food wastage and how we can minimise this in our own homes. 

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