I share with you some highlights from a very interesting paper entitled: Packaging the Problem of Food Waste, published in Food Processing Technology.
Click here to read the full article.
Packaging the problem of food waste
Industry experts suggest that roughly a third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally, amounting to about 1.3 billion tons a year. Food packaging designers and companies could take an important role in reducing the growing food mountain. Through new sizes, designs and the introduction of new packaging materials that prolong the shelf life of perishable foods, an important step towards more sustainable food supply can be made.
Many developed countries still concentrate on the reduction of packaging waste rather than a cutback in the food thrown away. "Packaging protects food," said European Organisation for Packaging and the Environment (EUROPEN) managing director Julian Carroll at the Save Food Congress, which was held as part of Interpack in Düsseldorf in May 2011.
"For decades, packaging was seen as nothing but waste, a nuisance to be avoided. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. Packaging is a technological wunderkind that makes abundance for the masses possible," he said. "I often shake my head in despair at the sheer absurdity of the focus on packaging waste and sustainability by policymakers compared with food waste. Packaging waste pales into insignificance compared with the losses caused by food waste."
While policymakers should concentrate on the education of consumers, the packaging industry has to tackle the growing food mountain with more practical and hands-on measures. Today's food packaging has to reflect changing consumption habits and other social changes resulting from demographic factors and altered lifestyles. People are becoming more urban, single households are more common and also the aging populations have influenced the shape, size and the design of packaged food. In the future, different products, different amounts and different packaging sizes will be in demand.
Intelligently designed containers have to ensure their content is entirely consumed and that no residual amount remains in the package, while ensuring product safety, convenience, marketing and sustainability, technological advancements significantly prolong the shelf life of perishable foods.
Trays, wraps and other forms of physical barriers not only protect the food from their environment but also maintain safety and flavour, keep out oxygen and microbes, and make seasonal food available all year. Better transport packaging reduces bruising, crushing and other damage and mitigates the risk of food being thrown away before even arriving at the supermarket.
A step further has been made with the development of active packaging materials, which do more than simply protect, store and transport food. The different plastic films interact with the food, adding to the product's shelf life without reducing its nutrients, adding unwanted tastes and odours, or changing the texture and appearance.
One of the biggest sources of consumer food waste is the mix-up of 'best-before' and 'use-by' dates on packages. Smart technology could be able to detect food germs and to trigger colour changes in the packaging to alert the consumer if the contents have gone bad.