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Shelf-life extension would reduce food waste

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By Nicholas Robinson+

10-Jun-2014
Last updated the 10-Jun-2014 at 11:19 GMT

A rubbish idea: £2.2bn could be saved by cutting food waste if products were given an extra day’s shelf-life
A rubbish idea: £2.2bn could be saved by cutting food waste if products were given an extra day’s shelf-life

Savings of £2.2bn could be made by reducing food waste if products were given an extra day’s shelf-life, new research has shown.

Peter Whitehead, interim project manager for the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), said 15% of all food waste arose from the disposal of products that were no longer edible.

Food businesses had already done a lot on recipe and packaging changes to extend shelf-life, he told a Leatherhead Food Research conference on food safety and product integrity last month, but other options had to be explored.

“Provisional evidence has shown that there’s some scope to add extra shelf-life to some products,” said Whitehead. “We’re not looking at significant movements [in dates], but marginal increases.”

Without compromising consumer safety

WRAP’s research showed that, without compromising consumer safety, it was feasible to add shelf-life to some products.

“We can benefit from an extra day’s life, we understand that there are some barriers in terms of the perception of freshness for retailers, but we haven’t found any problems in our research.”

Food manufacturers produced nearly 4Mt of food waste a year, said Whitehead, costing them around £1.2bn and contributing to the overall 15Mt of food waste jointly produced by households, retailers and other outlets.

There are many reasons for food and packaging waste, which costs £6.9bn, but product shelf-life was one of the biggest, costing just over £1bn a year, said Whitehead.

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So why it is so hard to market a natural solution?

I have won an Australian Food Industry Innovation Award for Herbal-Active and Fresher4Longer natural food rinse but can't seem to convince produce suppliers that there is a competitive advantage in offering naturally long life produce.

The most common response is that if I sell produce in one day and it is rotten he next then I get another order for more tomorrow. Why would I want long life on my goods?

Fortunately, the market is growing for more intelligent marketers who are dipping foods as diverse as fruits and vegetables for juices and purees, herbs for pesto, jerky before the final drying stage and a trial for fresh prawns which can get an extra 5 days from just a simple dip and drain. The product extends shelf life on berries, stone fruits, melons and soft vegetables dramatically. Strawberries can last up to a month, cherries for 6 weeks and zucchini have lasted 4 months!

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Posted by Vic Cherikoff
26 June 2014 | 23h33