Food production affects our environment to a great extent, but even worse is when the products are being wasted without any benefit at all.
Food waste means food that is thrown away even though it could have been eaten if it was handled differently. At the consumer level, it means leftover food that is not consumed before it is considered to be too old and at the store level it is about goods with short dates that are not sold.
Food waste research
The research platform SLU Future Food* has issued a policy brief with recommendations for reduced food waste.
I have been researching food waste for many years, but only now is the topic getting the attention we need to solve the problems,” says Ingrid Strid, who wrote the recommendations with the help of her colleagues.
Among other things, it is considered that it should be investigated whether the best-before labeling can be replaced by only the production date and/or education about the meaning of the labeling. We also need to challenge the need for fresh food and prioritize the waste of meatproducts.
Best before date
Best before-labeling is considered to be misleading and a big factor to food waste. Therefore, it should be investigated whether the labeling should be completely discontinued and replaced with the production date for foods where there is no risk of deteriorating food safety. Though, it is not the labeling itself that is the problem, but how it is interpreted. An education campaign could be a way to increase the level of knowledge of consumers.
Prioritize meat food waste
Production volumes of vegetable products are about five times greater than of meat production, including animal feed. Animal products, however, account for greater climate and environmental impact, which means that it is more effective to reduce the waste of meat products.
Meat waste can and should also be reduced by reducing the consumption of meat. Every kilogram of meat saved is a much bigger gain than a corresponding kilo of potatoes.
Challenge the need of fresh food
If more food is distributed frozen, dried or otherwise preserved, it is very likely to reduce waste. In connection with this, the need of fresh food needs to be challenged. It is desirable that consumers to a greater extent learn to accept, for example, frozen food for the goods where it pays for the environment.
Reduce waste in store
The Swedish Trade Council for stores describes several measures to reduce food waste in the store chain. The proposed measures are based on a study, “Reduced food waste in grocery stores – measures and their effects on the economy and the environment”, again with researcher Ingrid Strid at the forefront.
Vegetable fridge with doors
Fruits and vegetables have a longer shelf life if stored at a lower temperature than the store in general.
Cooking of food
The stores can use goods that would otherwise have been thrown as raw material for ready-made meals, which are then sold to customers.
Grocery stores that has control of their warehouse manages to keep the waste to a minimum, as they more easily pay attention to goods approaching their best-before date.
Exposure and price reduction
By exposing goods that are at risk of going to waste, the stores can sell them before they become bad. Lowering the price is another way of selling things that are in danger of being thrown away.
Packaging and quantity discount
Packaging must be appropriate and protect the product. It is also important not to be too generous with quantity discounts and large packages as it risks moving food waste to households instead.
Knowledge-enhancing are consistently needed, including communication with customers, in order to reduce waste in stores (and in households for that matter).
*SLU Future Food is a research platform at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences that coordinates research and collaboration to develop an economically, ecologically and socially sustainable food system.
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