Laying Waste To Food Waste

Food waste could be reduced by a review of current food safety regulations and changes in labelling, researchers at Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) have said.

In a paper, published in EuroChoices, they said it was important to balance scientific evidence and the precautionary principle applied to food safety, in order to reduce avoidable food loss and waste (FLW).

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, global food waste contributes more greenhouse gas emissions than any country in the world except for China and the United States.

The researchers said consumers needed clear, tailored information to help them differentiate between types of food safety hazards and better understand the linkages between food safety and waste.

This could involve the elimination of date labels such as ‘sell‐by’ and ‘display‐until’, used by retailers for stock control, which would increase product shelf life without compromising food safety and would offer retailers an opportunity to manage product flows more efficiently.

They also said improved co-ordination between animal health and food safety policies could reduce waste and improve safety, for example by reducing antibiotic use on farms.

The paper highlights the example of dairy farmers disposing of milk deemed unfit for human consumption due to high concentrations of antibiotic residues after treatment for animal diseases such as mastitis.

Other food losses, such as those resulting from retailers rejecting fruits and vegetables simply for cosmetic reasons, could be avoided completely.

Lead researcher and economist Luiza Toma said: “Food safety – whether actual or perceived – is one of the major reasons for food waste.
“Given the importance of safety as one of the most important attributes of food, the appropriate management of risks along the supply chain can contribute to reductions in food loss and waste.”

The researchers also called for investment in technologies for accurate assessment of food edibility at retail and consumption level; synchronised monitoring of safety hazards and FLW along the agri‐food chain; and improved regulations for the redistribution of food surpluses.

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