Although the world’s population increases we throw away a lot of good food. The reasons are many and include transport damages, poor storage management, over purchase, uncertainties about date labels or lack in handling leftovers in food services and households.

Helen Williams, a researcher at Karlstad University, has for six months worked at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia. Last year, she was awarded the Gunnar Sundblad Research Foundation prize, which allowed for her research time in Australia. Together with three other researchers Helén Williams have investigated the role of packaging for reducing food waste from farmer to consumer.
– Packaging protects the content and is the carrier of important information and should in addition provide convenience to the consumer. The packaging has a clear and important, but still overlooked, role to play in helping to reduce the amount of food that is wasted, says Helen Williams.

Better packaging solutions
Even though some losses are unavoidable, research shows that smarter packaging can make a big difference. Solutions that provide better protection during distribution of fresh produce by increased ventilation and temperature control make a difference. Smart-designed packaging can also mean that surplus or unsaleable processed food can be rescued by organizations and forwarded to charity.
– A large portion of food wastage occurs due to excess of food and lack of sharing on a global scale. One important function of packaging is to make it easy for retailers and restaurants to pass on the surplus food to organizations that forward it to different charity. It may be a matter of packaging in recyclable cardboard instead of plastic crates that must be returned, or see to it that the foods rescue organization is part of the recycling system, says Helen Williams.

A majority of the food waste comes from households. Many people throw away food because buying too much and not having time to consume the food before it turns bad. Shelf life can be prolonged by using different techniques, modified atmosphere increases the shelf life of for example sliced meat. The potential for new packaging solutions is large as the demand for convenience food, like readymade salads are increasing. These types of products have a shorter shelf life than the unprocessed vegetables and therefore require a better protection and other types of packaging.

Increased knowledge important
To reduce the large amounts of food waste, packaging functions is one key issue to address. The study shows that more and better information, both for producers and consumers are important. One example is the knowledge about the different date-labels of foods.
– Many people believe that the food is not safe to eat when the best-before-date is reached. In reality, the date shows the time span during which the manufacturer guarantees top quality. We need to continue this research to show the public and stakeholders the important role of packaging to protect the food. In the end it will lead to more food being consumed rather than wasted.

The full report: http://www.kau.se/sites/default/files/Dokument/subpage/2013/07/read_the_full_report__49474.pdf

For more information, contact Helen Williams, tel. +46 733 65 54 91