Less food in the bin
News In Norway we throw away an enormous amount of food: 25 per cent of all the food produced in fact. This is an enormous problem for our society and an all out effort is now commencing to reduce the amount of food going to waste.
In Norway we throw away an enormous amount of food: 25 per cent of all the food produced in fact. This is an enormous problem for our society and an all out effort is now commencing to reduce the amount of food going to waste.
“Reduksjon av matavfall i verdikjeden” (reducing food wastage in the value chain) is a new research project in which Østfoldforskning, SIFO and Nofima Mat are collaborating with the industry and the supermarkets to review and initiate measures to cut food wastage in Norway. The project is being led by Østfoldforskning and is being financed over three years by the Research Council of Norway.
A many-sided problem for society
“We already know a great deal about the kind of food that is being thrown away, but we are going to find out even more. We will for example examine whether it is the same kinds of foods that are going to waste in the supply and retail chain and in the homes of consumers. We will be able to get the full picture of what is being thrown away at all stages. Then we will take action – and this will be done throughout the entire value chain,” explains Oddvin Sørheim, Senior Research Technologist at Nofima Mat.
The problems that food wastage creates for society are not just about waste. They are also about greenhouse gas emissions created by food production and transport. Previous studies have shown that the greatest impact on the environment occurs in primary industry, on the farm, the fish farm and the trawler, so it is more important than ever to ensure that the food that is produced reaches the consumer in good condition. Nofima’s primary responsibility in the project will be to find measures the industry can put into action. These will be concerned with ensuring or increasing the shelf life of foods and developing the most appropriate packaging.
Increasing the shelf life of food
The proportion of wastage in the food industry is not particularly high, but is here that a major part of the effort must be put in, so as to reduce wastage further along the value chain. One of the measures will be to increase the shelf life of foods that have a short shelf life. And this will be done by making use of the products’ natural qualities, not by using more preservatives.
Today it is mainly fruit, vegetables and bakery goods that are going to waste. But a great deal of meat and fish is also being thrown away, and these products have a much higher value. Moreover it is beef and lamb especially that have the greatest environmental impact at the production stage. This means that introducing measures to increase the shelf life of meat and fish is equally important.
The microorganisms that reduce shelf life are mainly found on the surface of food, and these can be removed in various ways. Fish and meat can easily be marinated for a short period – a marinade of berry juices is a very suitable method for example. In the recent European research project Double Fresh, a marinade made of lingonberry juice was found to almost double the shelf life of fresh chicken. Heat treatment of the surface, in the form of hot water or steam, is another relevant method that can be used on both packaged and unpackaged food.
Packaging is also an important factor for increased shelf life. Developing packaging technology to give the best possible effect on shelf life is a hot research subject at the moment.
“We have a number of research projects looking into various kinds of packaging technology. For example the use of CO2 emitters has many benefits, in the form of improved shelf life and because it makes it possible to reduce the volume of the packaging and improve the fill ratio,” explains Sørheim.
“Packaging also plays a vital role in the amount of food being bought and there is a great deal to be saved by developing more appropriate packaging. Pack sizes tailored to small households and packaging with efficient opening and closing mechanisms will be important measures for reducing food wastage,” concludes Oddvin Sørheim.
An all out effort is now commencing to reduce the amount of food going to waste in Norway.