Waste Not Want Not – Blah, Blah, Blah versus Facts

Every few years some or other ‘do good’ organisation gets its 10 minutes of print fame by having an editorial published in the national print media highlighting gross food wastage.

A press release is drafted on behalf of the organisation’s CEO quoting statistics that are readily available on the world-wide-web and the findings of national and international bodies who monitor such food wastage patterns.

In some cases, these organisations also claim to have programs available that corporations cannot wait to join to reduce food waste but the ‘do good’ media release avoids reporting on any positive outputs achieved (so the reader is none the wiser as to whether the corporations are meeting their waste reduction goals or even if the ‘do good’ organisation is tracking them).

Don’t bother trying to advise these ‘do good’ organisations that there are readily available proven tangible interventions that have worked for 70 years (in the USA) and for 15 years (in RSA) they are not interested – not even an acknowledgment that an email was received let alone a huge grateful thanks for saving the Planet’s scare food supplies!!

So where is this bleat going, surely food wastage is a topic demanding national attention.

Too true! Waste not, want not media releases that only identify the ‘food wastage fault lines’ in general terms without drilling down further to offer the reader tangible food waste reduction solutions are as useful as bringing a knife to a gunfight.

And before this author is accused of the same practice let’s pull out the proverbial power drill and start drilling ….

There are five common ‘fault lines’ in the food logistics chain in this country when it comes to preventing fresh produce from reaching the consumer’s table in a qualitative condition worthy of the price that was paid for it.

  1.  Storing fresh produce at the incorrect ambient temperature causes leafy products (as an example) to wilt and lose qualitative condition whilst firmer textured produce will come under stress and experience a shorter shelf life
  2. Fresh produce comprises 90% moisture (and hanging meat 82%) and when stored in conditions below the latter  recommended minimum humidity levels, produce gives up moisture which results in a shorter shelf life (by some 70%), loss of texture, discolouration, loss of weight (and in the case of hanging meat, meat weight losses between 1% and 5% can come about)
  3. Fresh produce produces ethylene gas to grow in the soil which it still keeps producing post-harvest but which turns into a food spoilage gas when ethylene-sensitive produce is stored in the same environment as ethylene-producing plants, ripening far faster than normal resulting in shorter shelf life and qualitative condition
  4. Airborne bacteria can reduce the shelf life and qualitative condition of fresh produce if not removed from the storage environment
  5. Not many food professionals appreciate the fact that during busy work shifts cold rooms generate extra moisture (ideal for bacterial growth) via hot air entering the cold chain whilst conversely, during off-peak shifts (when cold room doors are closed for 6 to 10 hours) the evaporator fans dry out the internal atmosphere (causing fresh produce to wilt, lose weight as well as qualitative condition, discolour and ultimately a shortened shelf life)  – both scenarios are detrimental to the safe, sound and profitable storage of fresh produce (including hanging meat) in cold storage not to mention bottom line losses!!

The entire logistics chain (from the farming operation, agricultural packhouse, municipal market, fresh produce wholesaler, retailer, food manufacturer, to food preparation premises) must adopt a realistically achievable ‘waste not want not policy’ that aims to eliminate the foregoing fault lines, and more importantly, it must be practiced by the board down to floor level by way of signed commitment by each member of the organisation.

Next proven farm-to-fork interventions need to be introduced and maintained to:

a. ensure that the correct fresh produce cold chain ambient temperature is maintained 24/7 – from post-harvesting through to the end-consumer purchase

b. maintain relative humidity levels at 90% for fresh produce (and 82% for hanging meat) 24/7 during cold storage  – the most important intervention to ensure fresh produce and hanging meat qualitative retention

c. remove food spoilage gases and airborne bacteria during cold storage phases

and reach your corporate 2030 UN Sustainable Goal (12.3) well before 2030!

Go to https://polarafrica.co.za/humidity-control/ for solutions that work and cut out the waste not want not blah, blah, (yawn) blah!