Food waste is a huge problem worldwide, with about 2.5 billion tons of food being wasted across the world every year. An even more startling food waste fact is that the United States discards more food than any other country in the world - with nearly 60 million tons of food wasted every year! This is estimated to be almost 40 percent of the entire food supply in the United States and ends up being about 325 pounds of waste per person. With this amount of food uneaten per person, it’s no wonder food waste is one of the largest components taking up space in US landfills.
These hard facts shed light on just how serious of an issue we’re faced with. However, there are food waste solutions available to help significantly reduce these staggering statistics. Before jumping into the ways to reduce food waste, let’s first get a clearer picture of some of its main causes.
Main Causes of Food Waste
As you may have guessed, food waste occurs when safe, high-quality food is thrown away instead of eaten. Food waste can happen for many reasons, including:
- Food that’s not eaten is thrown away at homes, stores, and restaurants.
- Crops left in fields due to low prices or overproduction.
- Issues during food transportation and manufacturing.
- Food that doesn’t meet retailers’ standards for appearance or color is thrown away.
For each cause listed above, many factors can contribute to food loss. For example, on farms, food loss can arise due to:
- Farmers planting more than consumers demand to hedge against pests and weather.
- Food may not be harvested because of inclement weather, pests, and disease.
- Cosmetic imperfections often result in food waste, as consumers are less interested in misshaped or blemished items.
- Food safety scares and improper refrigeration and handling can force farmers to throw out otherwise edible food.
As another example, food loss in transportation and distribution networks can also occur for various reasons, such as:
- Improper refrigeration.
- Rejection of perishable food shipments, which are then thrown out if another buyer can’t be found quickly.
- Transportation delays.
Researchers estimate that 14 percent of food waste occurs between when the food is produced and when it is distributed. As a result, fresh food in up to 70 percent of global supply chains goes bad due to issues such as inadequate or improper storage.
Food Waste in the Cold Chain
Within transportation and distribution networks is a specialized segment called the cold chain. The cold chain refers to a temperature-controlled supply chain consisting of refrigerated production, storage, and distribution facilities with equipment that can constantly maintain the required low-temperature range of products.
The management of temperature for perishable products is key to maintaining quality and safety throughout the entire farm-to-fork journey. By assuring consistent refrigeration through the product's passage from manufacturing, through transport and warehousing, to final delivery, the cold chain process impacts every step of the supply chain.
However, temperature control can get complicated since different products require a different range of temperatures to remain fresh and safe. Failing to keep products at the correct temperatures can result in textural degradation, discoloring, bruising, and microbial growth. All of which not only diminish the appeal of food to consumers but also pose potential health risks if consumed.
Cold Chain Food Waste Solutions
When transporting food items and other products that need to be temperature-controlled or monitored, product stability, packaging, transportation, monitoring, and temperature minimums must be considered. Cold chain technology addresses these areas via the use of gel packs, dry ice, liquid nitrogen, reefers, insulated quilts, and technology such as sensors.
One major solution to food waste is better cold chain management that ensures products are kept at suitable and uninterrupted temperature conditions from farm-to-fork. Monitoring temperature at every stage throughout the cold chain process can prevent food waste. When the proper temperature-monitoring technology is implemented and used to communicate to all partners in the cold chain, the number of products that experience temperature deviations is reduced.
Despite the challenges involved, cold chains have the potential to significantly cut food waste every year. Over time, through continued innovation of temperature monitoring technologies, these losses could be even further minimized.
Evigence Sensors as a Solution to Food Waste
Evigence’s sensors, known as time-temperature indicators (TTIs), track cumulative time and temperature and are a viable solution to reduce food waste risk from packaging to consumption. They provide unique tracking and data storage to increase efficiencies throughout the cold chain process, helping to significantly reduce food waste. Our first-class technology for monitoring fresh foods helps businesses improve the quality of products delivered to their customers. Our sensors consistently monitor the freshness of perishable items and relay the information to employees and customers.
How Do The Sensors Work?
Temperature indicator labels placed on items provide a visual indication when the temperature falls outside the ideal temperature range. They can also serve as a visual warning to make handlers aware of the monitoring program, alerting them that the products need to be handled properly and well-maintained.
Evigence Cold Chain Freshness Management
When you partner with us for cold chain freshness management or last mile freshness management, you’ll benefit from the combination of sensors and data analytics to monitor food's freshness in real-time, at the unit or case level, from production through consumption.
- Sensors can be seamlessly applied to each product during high-speed manufacturing processes at the retail level.
- Sensors are scanned digitally and physically read, providing an instant read of the product’s remaining freshness. Scanned data is uploaded to the Evigence Freshness Management Platform for analytics, providing you with insights to help you further improve the cold chain process for your products.
Managing fresh foods is difficult. Small differences in both time and temperature exposure for each unit throughout the cold chain can negatively impact product quality, freshness, and remaining shelf life. Evigence’s cold chain management makes fresh food management easier and provides valuable insights that help you optimize freshness throughout your entire supply chain.
Let’s work together to help reduce food waste and maintain product quality. Contact us with any questions about partnering with us to improve operational efficiencies and reduce food waste.
Courtney Cook, Marketing Director