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Cold-chain food waste costs Australia $4B

A new government and industry-sponsored study has revealed that food waste attributable to failures in the cold food chain costs the Australian economy nearly $4 billion at farm gate values.

The study was carried out by the Melbourne-based Expert Group for the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment and Refrigerants Australia.

Australian Food Cold Chain Council (AFCCC) Chairman Mark Mitchell said the study highlighted the “shocking abuse” of temperature control and food handling processes in refrigerated transports, loading docks and cold rooms across Australia.

‘It is almost criminal that one quarter of Australia’s production of fruit and vegetables are never eaten,’ he said.

‘This loss alone accounts for almost two million tonnes of otherwise edible food, worth $3 billion. Meat and seafood waste in the cold chain costs the country another $90 million and dairy losses total $70 million.”

According to Mitchell, while the Federal Government has committed to reducing food waste by half by 2030, the goal wont be achieved unless substantial improvements are made to the way chilled food makes its way from farm or production facility to the consumer.

“We need to work cooperatively across industry and government to improve cold chain efficiency,” he said.

“Most of the cold food chain’s problems are human-induced. Technologies and processes already exist that would dramatically cut food losses, but nothing can be achieved while food manufacturers and distribution channels operate in isolation and secrecy.”

To minimise food waste, the study recommends handling processes such as reducing the time food spends outside refrigerated environments during transfer, more accurate measurement of food temperatures and more transparent monitoring of food in transit.

“An Australian Cold Food Code could be a game-changer for food producers and consumers,” Mitchell added.

“It is all very well to implore cold storage facilities, trucking companies and supermarkets to redouble their efforts to reduce food waste, but they need the support and guidance of an updated and practical code, combined with an education campaign for cold chain practitioners.”

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