Aussies may waste even more food than first thought

The AFCCC has warned that government estimates of food waste could be too low because they don’t factor in transport.

The Australian Food Cold Chain Council (AFCCC) has cautiously welcomed the federal government’s latest assessment of food waste. But it believes food losses in transport added to conventional wastage, making the government’s early estimates “far too low”.

The AFCCC describes itself as a “non-for-profit group of industry leaders committed to reducing food wastage and improving innovation, compliance and food safety for the Australian community”.

300kg of food per year – per person

The Australian government estimates that every person in the country throws out almost 300kg of food every year. The AFCCC called this statistic “disturbing”.

“(It’s) good enough reason to support the first National Food Waste Strategy,” AFCCC Chair Mark Mitchell said. “This aims to halve food loss and waste in Australia by 2030, in line with EU policy.

“Nobody really has the accurate figures on food waste because of poor data. So this first estimate is only a best guess.”

‘Horror stories’

Mr Mitchell also identified what he regards as a significant blind spot in the overall food-waste picture.

“One area where our data is almost non-existent is in the food cold chain,” he said. “This is where significant transport and storage is involved in moving perishable food streams. These include soft fruit, dairy and leafy vegetables travelling often long distances in high temperatures.

“Anecdotal evidence has revealed some horror stories. One southern-state herb grower consistently loses 90 per cent of his produce in transport.

“The tragedy is that the technology exists to combat food loss. But many of the links in the cold chain are broken … Nobody wants to take responsibility for the huge trailer loads of food that are rejected at their destination through temperature abuse or poor handling processes.

“So our reason for pessimism about the latest food-waste numbers is that data on transport losses is so poor that the national estimates of food waste exclude transport.”

‘Critical control points’

Mr Mitchell says the AFCCC has been working with “kindred groups” such as FIAL and the Australian Institute of Packaging. Together, they’ve “already identified a number of critical control points in the chain that add up to food waste on a massive scale”.

These critical points include:

  • Poor storage on or near farms
  • Unrefrigerated loading docks
  • Inadequate insulation and temperature control in refrigerated vehicles
  • The monitoring of air temperature, rather than product temperature, in many points of the cold chain.

Mr Mitchell added: “There’s no doubt we need to prepare an annual inventory to improve data collection and quality.

“We’ll throw our weight behind programs that will help capture good data to enable the development of effective food-waste policies.”

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