Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Food wasting is a criminal act which must be condemned unequivocally. Mere fact that a country is wealthy does not confer upon it special rights to waste foods and such wastage is unconscionable looked from any angle. It is said that the world throws away food in such high quantities that it would be sufficient to feed 2 billion people, if saved, by taking a little bit more care by those who are blessed with access to plenty of foods. Food safety authorities world over have created an unenviable situation by mandating the industry to declare expiry date on each and every package of foods manufactured with the noble intention of helping consumers to avoid unsafe foods and face the adverse consequences of food poisoning. But the present system is not considered satisfactory since manufacturers routinely print expiry dates without any scientific basis and most foods even after the expiry date are considered safe though quality wise it may be marginally inferior. Ultimately it is the consumer who has to decide whether a food is good or bad through his sensory powers. Recent report that new smart freezers are being developed to help the consumer to forewarn about products dumped in the freezer and helping to remove old ones with expired dates already passed, is a welcome development. Here is a take on this electronic gadgetry which may hit the market soon. 

"Aside from the customer, the food industry includes many participants — from growers and producers to manufacturers who turn foods into products, to packaging companies, distributors, wholesalers, and retailers. The logistics are often complex: Food products can have many different ingredients, with multiple sources for each one. Perishable foods need cold storage and distribution that keeps them fresh. Food provenance, or where food is grown or made, also impacts the sustainability of the supply chain. Locally sourced food can reduce both transportation costs and emissions. With a global population expected to reach nine billion in 2050, efficiency is key in order to meet the increased demand for food. Food production consumes 10 percent of the U.S. energy budget and 50 percent of U.S. land, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Yet, 40 percent of food in the U.S. goes uneaten. The U.S. wastes about 121 billion pounds of food each year, with some two-thirds of that going to landfills. At the same time, said the NRDC, one-in-six American households struggle to find enough food. Reducing losses by just 15 percent could feed an additional 25 million Americans every year, the group said. The Food Waste Reduction Alliance Project is a coalition working to re-route edible food to food banks. At the 2013 Sustainable Foods Summit in San Francisco, Bon Appetit Management Company said it's reducing food waste by changing meal sizes and menu options, while Whole Foods Market said it's composting its food waste in about 75 percent of its stores. Playing it Safe New food safety laws are also exerting pressures on food supply chains. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), signed into law by President Obama in 2011, makes regulators more responsible to prevent contamination, rather than just responding to it. The FSMA redefines how food is tracked, traced and monitored. As a result, new technologies are helping food companies trace the source, distribution path, and handling of ingredients in case of contamination and recalls.Temperature tags using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology can provide continuous temperature data for perishable foods, enabling manufacturers and retailers to prevent spoilage and loss. IBM  used its RFID technology to create a smart freezer that can identify items nearing their expiration dates and alert staff when inventory is low on a particular item. Supermarket shoppers can also trace foods with the free HarvestMark Food Traceability App. Consumers can use a smart phone to scan codes on some three billion food items to see data on farmers and growing methods.With the help of new technology and smart changes to food management, companies can minimize safety risks, reduce waste and hunger, and help save the planet, too — a triple bottom line with far-reaching results for global sustainability".

More than the freezer, it is the refrigerator that needs such an app since frozen foods are relatively safe even after the expiry date linebut the temperature conditions in a refrigerator can definitely support bacterial and fungal growth after a few days of storage. If fresh produce packed properly are equipped with the appropriate RFID tags and smart refrigerators designed with the alert function, this will go a long way to help the consumers to save lot of foods. Such smart refrigerators can alert the house wives regarding the approaching expiry date so that the older foods are used in preference to fresher ones getting into the refrigerator.


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