Waste is still a major issue for the food industry and the environment. Barry Cracket from Brushtec, manufacturer of the marketleading Zig-Zag processing brush, looks at how maintaining produce in the supply chain can help to reduce waste.
In the UK, around 10 million tonnes of food were wasted between 2013 and 2016, according to figures from WRAP. Not only does this waste represent a huge loss of revenue for those in the supply chain, but it has far-reaching effects on the environment, primarily due to the C02 produced during processing and the methane emitted when committed to landfill.
One of the ways that we can look to address this issue is by improving the way we maintain produce within the supply chain. After harvesting, the other big source of waste in the sector boils down to the way that we handle food when it need to be stored before distribution. However, with the right strategy, we can take steps to minimise the level of waste at this critical stage.
We can begin to reduce waste within the supply chain by looking at the storage facilities themselves. By disinfecting any location where food will be stored, we can minimise contamination and prevent the spread of disease. Care should also be taken to ensure there is adequate ventilation and control over air flow, humidity, and temperature, which will help to avoid crops spoiling.
Food that requires similar temperature and humidity levels should be stored together for optimal safety and efficiency. In addition, crops that produce high levels of ethylene, like apples, should be kept separate from those that are sensitive to the chemical, like lettuce, carrots, and potatoes, to stop the sensitive crops from spoiling.
The lifespan of crops can be extended by cleaning, grading and selecting, and removing field heat before storage. Cleaning is essential because it reduces disease and removes debris that could restrict ventilation or carry spoilage pathogens. It also makes it easier to grade and select damaged, infected, and over mature crops, which should be discarded as they can contaminate healthy produce in storage. Finally, refrigerating your food will remove field heat that can produce higher levels of C02, as well as making it difficult to achieve the desired storage temperature.
By adopting these practices, we can improve the way that produce is maintained during the supply chain. With better storage and hygiene, our crops can benefit from maximised lifespan, less spoiling, and lower levels of disease, which is one of the best ways to tackle food waste in the industry.