Thursday, 17 January 2013

Food Waste across the Food Supply Chain (FSC)

Food waste is an expression most people are familiar with, whether you’ve heard it on the news or the radio, read it the paper, or had it mentioned in a chat with the neighbours. Today, food waste is one of the major issues Western economies are tackling (although it is also a problem in developing and transitional countries). The term food waste or food loss refers to food thrown away or lost food that could have been used for human consumption instead.

But, how is food waste produced? The results of research so far highlights that food waste occurs at most stages of the Food Supply Chain (FSC), even at the beginning of production. For example, crop losses can occur before harvest due to pest infestations, climate conditions, or as a result of the use of harvesters which may damage the crops. During the post-harvest stage, food losses can occur in storage, as a result of humid and high temperatures fostering the germination of insects, pests and microorganisms. Such unfavourable environmental conditions also have a negative impact on the quality of food, altering its nutritional and caloric values and making it unfit for human consumption. These food losses chiefly concern developing countries, owing to food production systems which lack in appropriate and effective technologies, storage, technical skills, knowledge and infrastructures.

In developed countries, considerable quantities of food are wasted in retail. Many retail stores discard foods because of passing their use-by and sell-by dates, even though it is still edible. Even packaging, which is generally helpful in both preserving food and keeping it from damages may contribute to food waste, contaminating food that could be used to feed animals instead.

 However, the most significant food waste actually occurs at the end of FSC – at home. According to the conclusions of some studies (Exodus 2006; Brook Lyndhurst 2007; WRAP 2008/2009) carried out in UK and US and focusing on the reasons why food is wasted by consumers, food waste can be divided into two “consumers’ wasteful behavior” categories: the first category is often referred to as “leftovers” and concerns waste  occurring because of cooking or the serving too much food. The second one was labeled as “(Food) not used in time”, which includes waste produced when food passes its “use by” date.

Estimates report that approximately one third of the West’s food production is annually lost or wasted, and “an estimated 8.3 million tons of household food waste is produced each year in the UK”, equivalent to a yearly cost of £10.2 billion - about £250 to £400 per household (WRAP 2008). In 2010, food waste decreased by 13% to 7.2 million tons, but still corresponded to around one third of all food bought in the UK each year – meaning it could have theoretically fed half UK population.

Such figures inevitably raise ethical concerns. It is vital that a significant decrease of food waste is achieved across the FSC – but how can that be done? With regards developing economies, a potential solution would be large-scale financial investments, aimed at improving their production, transport and distribution systems. Conversely, in developed countries, this would require a shift in consumer behavior. In 2000 the government-funded West Resources Action Program (WRAP), was created to deal with the problem and promote reduction of food waste.

It has been intensified further by the launch of “Love Food, Hate Waste” campaign in 2007, who have suggested useful strategies to prevent food waste. They encourage individuals to understand date labels, plan their meals and what they want to buy in advance, and use leftovers to prepare other meals. For example, if you have some pasta, rice or vegetables leftover in the saucepan, why not make a delicious Italian “frittata” with them? On Love Food, Hate Waste website you will find varying tips and advices in more details, as well as a section dedicated to a selection of tasty and healthy recipes to tickle your appetite, challenge your creativity in the kitchen, and improve your cooking repertoire. A possible contribution to avoid wasting food could be made by everyone – and what a difference that would make.
By Erica Romano & Jessica Heath

1 comment:

  1. The term food waste or food loss survival warehouse coupon refers to food thrown away or lost food that could have been used for human consumption instead.