Today, 29th September, marks the first International Day of Awareness on Food Loss and Waste Reduction. Designated by the United Nations General Assembly, the aim of the day is to raise awareness of the importance of the food waste problem and its possible solutions at all levels.
The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) has issued a call to action for public bodies, the private sector, businesses, consumer organisations and individuals worldwide to promote, use and scale-up innovation and technologies to tackle food loss and waste.
While today marks the first time that food loss and waste reduction is being recognised internationally with events around the world, recent years have seen growing calls for an integrated approach to the issue. During 2017 researchers from the Plant Science Laboratory, Cranfield University, UK, published a paper in the SCI’s Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture arguing for a paradigm shift in funding strategies and research programmes that encouraged the development, implementation and translation of collective biological engineering and management solutions to better preserve and utilise food.
The research team asserted that ‘…multidisciplinary thinking across global supply chains is an essential element in the pursuit of achieving sustainable food and nutritional security.’
The research team added ‘At every step of the supply chain, food waste has an impact on economic, social and environmental aspects.’ Indeed waste has a major impact on greenhouse gas emissions. The UK fruit and vegetable sector is a major contributor, with most of the waste occurring at household and food service levels. The researchers also highlighted that air freight and refrigeration are hotspots in the lifecycle analysis of fresh produce, whereby the former accounts for approximately half of all greenhouse gas emissions associated with transport.
Other factors contributing to waste, mostly in developed countries, said the researchers include how quality standard specifications are set, consumer lack of understanding on labelling in relation to sell by, use by, and expiry dates and ubiquitous promotions which could eventually lead to food waste at a household level, when buying more than needed.
The researchers concluded that there was a lack of active research being conducted in areas where postharvest fresh produce loss is the greatest. ‘There [are] a lack of mechanisms such as knowledge transfer programmes, and internationally funded joint research and mobility schemes across supply chains, by which both conventional and innovative technologies can be developed and further implemented across the globe to reduce waste,’ the researchers said.