Industry, academia and government action united in common food waste cause

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

Food waste reduction efforts were high on the agenda this week as the Dutch government, the Weizmann Institute of Science and Ocado, continued united efforts to minimise food loss.

The online retail giants revealed ongoing efforts to reduce food waste inside their supply chain, by publishing a total food waste figure of 0.02% – or 1 in 6,000 items.

“Fresh products like meat or bakery items have a very short shelf life,” ​said Danny Kelly, Ocado supply chain operations manager.

“By testing and tweaking the packaging on our mince for example, we’ve been able to promise customers an extra two days of shelf life in their fridge – that’s on top of the three days we already promise customers.” 

Other contributing factors include the use of software that calculates how to pack items to reduce product damage and decrease food waste.

Shorter supply chains are positively encouraged by the firm, with products coming straight from the supplier to Ocado, which are then packed into shopping bags.

The produce is then sent out direct to the customer or to a spoke for delivery the same day.

“Currently the average family of four waste the equivalent to £60 worth of food, every month,”​ said Helen White, Special Advisor on Household Food Waste at WRAP.”

“Having the support of retailers is vital in the fight against food waste and crucial if we are to reduce the 7.3 million tonnes of food wasted every year from UK homes.”

United against food waste

Meanwhile the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature & Food Quality are taking the lead in ‘United against food waste,’ an initiative that aims to cut food waste in the Netherlands by 50% in 2030 compared to 2015.

Huge amounts of food are being wasted,” ​said Carola Schouten, minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality.

“This is especially serious when you consider how widespread poverty remains around the world, even in the Netherlands. There are places where people go to bed hungry.”

“There are opportunities in this process for many new and innovative ideas and initiatives. Less waste would also allow a significant reduction in CO2 emissions while saving money. In short, it would be good for the environment as well as the finances.”

The Ministry have committed €7m in funds over the next four years paid for through investments in innovation, research, monitoring and education.

The theme of food waste has long been on the Dutch political agenda, with aims to become the first country in Europe to meet Target 12.3 of the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals.

The collaboration, which includes Rabobank, McDonald's, Protix and Wageningen University & Research, is the first time a large-scale partnership addresses the entire food chain in recognition of UN calls to halve food waste and reduce food loss by 2030.

Emphasising plant’s value

Finally, the Weizmann Institute of Science believe unnecessary food loss stems from using agricultural land to produce animal-based food instead of nutritionally comparable plant-based alternatives.

The researchers estimate that replacing all animal-based items with edible crops for human consumption - would add enough food to feed 350 million additional people, using the same land resources.

"Favouring a plant-based diet can potentially yield more food than eliminating all the conventionally defined causes of food loss,"​ said Dr Alon Shepon, lead study​ author and postdoctoral fellow at the Institute.

By comparing the resources required to produce beef, pork, dairy, poultry and eggs with those needed to grow crops of similar nutritional value, the team found that the plant-based crops could produce two- to 20-fold more protein per acre.

"Opportunity food loss must be taken into account if we want to make dietary choices enhancing global food security,"​ added Professor Ron Milo, principal investigator at the Institute.

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