Tag Archives: doug ranch

Sustainability and Food Waste: Would You Eat Expired Food?

By Aaron G. Biros
No Comments

“Food waste, if it were a country, would be the third largest emitter of carbon dioxide and methane, behind the U.S. and China,” says Doug Rauch, former president of Trader Joe’s. How can innovation in food safety technology and systems help reduce food waste?

Nearly half of all food produced throughout the world is lost to waste every year. Such an enormous amount of waste should motivate food companies to look for innovative ways to reduce waste and become more sustainable.

Food waste is an issue that encompasses the entire food industry, occurring at all stages of food production including harvesting, processing, retail, and consumption. Therefore food safety and quality professionals, because of their connection to the entire food production process, have an opportunity to mitigate waste by introducing a number of sustainable and innovative practices for utilizing otherwise unused food.

Discarded byproducts and material lost throughout the food production process should be viewed as opportunities worth exploiting for every company. Extracting value from normally wasted material allows businesses to increase efficiency dramatically. Incorporating sustainable practices like food waste reduction can present very marketable opportunities to increase margins.

Former president of Trader Joe’s and keynote speaker at the 2014 IFT Conference in New Orleans, Doug Rauch, is a prominent advocate for addressing food waste on a national scale. During his keynote address, he spoke of the immediate need for food waste reduction: “Food waste, if it were a country, would be the third largest emitter of carbon dioxide and methane, behind the U.S. and China.” 

As the global population continues to rise, and developing countries emulate developed countries’ unsustainable production practices, Rauch believes we will begin to see a change of pace. “The next food revolution is going to be about what we’re not eating; it’s going to be about the food we throw away.”

One in six people in the United States are food insecure and obesity has reached record numbers across the country, with some states reaching over 40 percent. In his keynote speech, Rauch cites these figures, correlating poor nutrition to lower socioeconomic status. Rauch launched the Urban Food Initiative to combat poor nutrition with solving the food waste crisis in mind. His idea involves getting expired (or soon to be expired) food to fight poor nutrition in low-income neighborhoods at fast food prices.

Quality and safety play an integral role in the use of food that would normally be discarded. Brian Turner, Senior Manager of Food Safety Information Services at Sodexo, is on the advisory board for the Food Recovery Network, which is an organization that works with college campuses in reducing food waste and hunger. While these programs are very innovative on paper, Turner emphasizes the “concern for procedures and protocol to minimize quality and food safety issues.”

This highlights an opportunity for food safety professionals to help innovate along the way in the processes of reducing waste and hunger, while implementing key quality and safety practices. Organizations and initiatives like these are helping to emphasize the importance of mitigating waste, while addressing other key social and economic problems. In addressing food waste alone, sustainable practices throughout the value chain can be versatile to extend across markets.

Robert Evans, of the Diana Food Division, was a speaker on a food waste panel at the 2014 IFT conference who discussed extracting value from byproducts. Evans believes that “extracting byproducts in the natural food ingredients industry can provide functional solutions around the world and minimize upstream losses to food waste.”

Through involving the entire value chain, from sustainable agricultural practices and raw material sourcing to safe extraction methods, Evans believes that we can bring functional molecules to the market and reduce carbon footprints. Larger food companies are beginning to take action in the reduction of food waste, but innovation needs to occur at a system level across the supply chain to curb wasteful and unsustainable practices. Extracting value from byproducts along with smart sourcing are just some of the sustainable practices being introduced. Food safety and quality oversight at every step along the way is crucial to reducing food waste by ensuring that otherwise wasted products are held to the same quality standards as other ingredients. With that being said, we will continue to see innovation in food safety technology and systems play a dominant role in reducing food waste and utilizing byproducts.