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Packaging industry responds on food waste issue

Packaging optimisation and preventative role key in food waste battle

By Joe Whitworth , 22-Mar-2013
Last updated on 22-Mar-2013 at 14:02 GMT2013-03-22T14:02:27Z

Linpac said their split pack enables one side to be opened while the rest can be saved in the pack which is still sealed
Linpac said their split pack enables one side to be opened while the rest can be saved in the pack which is still sealed

Packaging stakeholders have highlighted their key focusses in response to news that food waste amounts to 89 million tonnes a year in the EU, according to the EESC.

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) had its opinion on Prevention and reduction of food waste adopted this week.

European Organization for Packaging and the Environment (EUROPEN) said packaging optimisation was key and Linpac believe packaging’s vital role in preventing food waste is beginning to be recognised, when asked about the issue by FoodProductionDaily.com.

The EESC called on the European Commission to take steps to counter the dramatic trend aggravated by the economic crisis.

EUROPEN has created a task force on food waste to promote the role of packaging, innovation, technologies and solutions contributing to reduction, packaging practices, technologies and innovations and for contribution to EU policy developments and industry initiatives.

Packaging optimisation

Virgina Janssens, managing director of EUROPEN, described tackling the problem throughout the supply chain as a multi stakeholder issue.

“It is about optimising and not reduction, protecting the product is packaging’s key function and sometimes slightly more packaging is needed to protect the product and to prevent food spoilage.

“The measure how to improve and reduce packaging waste going to landfill and food waste is an ongoing work, but there is a motivation at EU level to do something about it.

“Food waste is spoiled at different stages, in the EU it tends to be at consumer level but in developing countries it is more at distribution level getting the product from A to Z.”

Innovations such as modified atmosphere packaging (MAP), hermetic seals, portion sizes for different lifestyles and households and colour-changing labels to help consumers when it comes to use-by dates, are some of the things that can help Janssens said.

The prevention and reduction of food losses and waste must be given a key place on the political agenda, said the EESC.

Vital role of packaging

Jo Stephenson, vice president marketing and innovation at Linpac Packaging, said consumers and industry are beginning to recognise the vital role packaging has to play in helping reduce the amount of food thrown away.

“The amount of food which goes to waste each year is shameful and emphasises more than ever how important it is for all the links in the food supply chain to take action to reduce this figure.

“Packaging offers a very tangible solution but this has often been overlooked because of dangerous misconceptions about its impact on the environment that have become so ingrained.”

Stephenson said pack design is affected by factors such as changing global demographics, trends and environmental concerns.

“Food packaging manufacturers have to be smart in order to address these demands and be forward-thinking about what packers, retailers and consumers will look for in the future.”

Unacceptable situation

Yves Somville (Various interests group, Belgium), rapporteur for the EESC opinion said the situation is unacceptable.

“Sadly, the current crisis has increased the number of people who depend on social assistance but reduced the number of food banks, even though the need for them has risen sharply.

“Paradoxically, up to 30% of food gets wasted in EU households, supermarkets, restaurants and along the food supply chain each year. We must take action to stop this.”

Antimicrobial packaging is one of industry’s latest innovations, Stephenson added.

“The technology helps to reduce spoilage and increase the shelf life of food by inhibiting the growth of bacteria, moulds and yeast, as well as reduce the risk of contamination from pathogens such as E.coli.

Packaging enables a global food supply chain – without it we literally could not transport or distribute food safely or securely around the world.”

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