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Reducing food waste from farm to fork

Targeting zero food waste was the leading thought during a symposium, held in Dutch capital Amsterdam on November 6.

The speakers, executives from various companies in the food supply chain, commented on the questions which had been put forward by a "think tank". Overall conclusion: reaching zero food waste is impossible. But initiatives such as alternative packaging options, will contribute to seriously reduce the wasted food volume.

The symposium was chaired by Dr Toine Timmermans, theme director of the Top Institute for Food & Nutrition at Wageningen University.

Timmermans is also programme manager for Sustainable Food Chains at the same University. In this role, his objective is to create a sustainable food chain through in-depth research, innovation and chain cooperation.

Figures from FAO make clear that food waste is truly a problem. On an annual basis, 179 kg per capita are wasted, 70 kg of which is purchased. In other words, massive food loss is at the consumers' side.

Whether the food is of plant or animal origin, it all starts with proper harvesting and storage, where of course there's much to win. "But a major part will depend on proper packaging and logistics", said Stefan Fageräng, managing director of Tetra Pak, NW Europe. "It is easier to manage packaging, than avoiding food waste", he said. In The Netherlands, Fageräng added, 75% of the food is imported. Hence, these are almost all packed products, many of which in plastic. But then it is the consumer who eventually purchases the product and there is where most of the food is wasted.

Given the fact that there's a wide variety of consumers, one solution is to offer a wider range of packaging options. Examples are small portions for small households of 1 or 2 persons, thus reducing the volume of non-consumed food at the consumers' side. Logically, this will in turn have a negative impact on environmental issues. In order to tackle these problems too, Tetra Pak is therefore also investigating the options for using alternative packaging materials, such as made from by-products of plant origin. Moreover Tetra Pak is investigating the reuse of packaging material.

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