Advanced Storage Practices for Optimal Transportation of Produce

Research Team: HeTa Food Research Centre for Excellence

Addressing Food Waste: Implementing Advanced Storage Practices for Optimal Transportation of Produce to Retail Outlets

Introduction

Food waste is one of the world’s most significant environmental and social issues. The UN Environment Programme indicates that one-third of all food produced is wasted annually, putting an additional load on the environment and causing food insecurity (1). Annually, 8% of greenhouse gas emissions occur due to food wastage and consume essential resources like water, land, and energy (2). Some significant causes of food wastage include loss of quality and quantity during post-harvest handling, storage, and transportation of fruits and vegetables. Implementing improved storage techniques is necessary to facilitate the effective migration of produce from production areas to retail outlets and minimise food wastage. Using new storage techniques can prolong the shelf life of fresh fruits and vegetables, retain their nutritional quality and prevent spoilage (3).

This can increase our food system’s sustainability and resilience and save resources. Working on the issue of food waste in agriculture is essential for improving the food system. Agricultural practices play a significant role in the widespread problem of food wastage. Therefore, effective solutions should be introduced. Better preservation and transportation procedures for food products from the farm to market are necessary. It is essential to address the abandonment of food only due to its imperfections or failure to meet cosmetic standards for disposal (4).

Enhanced Storage and Transportation Practices to Prevent Food Waste of Fresh Produce

  • Sorting and Grading

The packing, sorting, and grading of produce based on the quality before it is put in storage plays a vital role since only the best products are selected for transportation. This prevents spoilage and waste during the delivery process while enhancing customer satisfaction and loyalty (5). The sorting and grading can be done mechanically or manually based on shape, texture, colour, weight firmness, ripeness, and defect. For instance, apples can be sorted and graded based on the USDA standards that set minimum requirements, tolerances and grades for several varieties (6).

  •  Humidity Control

Humidity is also essential for the quality and life span of fruits or vegetables during transportation. Various fruits and vegetables have different moisture needs that help maintain their texture and appearance. Dehydration, wilting, browning, rot and mold growth can be caused by high or low humidity (7). Thus, humidity regulation in storage premises is necessary to ensure these issues do not occur and prolong freshness. Humidity control can be attained through different techniques ranging from refrigeration, ventilation, humidification, dehumidifier, or modified atmosphere packaging. For instance, the optimal relative humidity for bananas is 90-95%, and onions should be stored in an environment with a relative humidity of 65-70% (1).

  • Vacuum Sealing and Packaging Materials

Packaging of food involves vacuum sealing and proper choice of packaging materials. Vacuum sealing removes air and maintains food quality by preventing oxidation, microbial growth, and insects. It also minimizes the bulk and load of food, which can help save space and transportation costs (8). Other preservation methods can be applied alongside vacuum sealing, including freezing, drying or salting. The selection of solid and durable materials can prevent physical damage to the food against bruising, crushing or even puncturing that could lead to undesirable appearance and taste. The different packaging materials in vacuum-sealed bags include polyethylene, polypropylene, nylon, aluminum foil and cardboard (9).

  • Traceability Systems

An advanced traceability system can be integrated to monitor the source and history of food products within the supply chain. Traceability systems allow the detection and solution of any problems or difficulties during transit, such as delay, spoilage, loss, damage, or contamination (10). Traceability systems also improve transparency and accountability in the food distribution system by documenting food production, processing, handling, and storage. These, in turn, can have a positive effect on consumer, retailer and regulator confidence, as well as improve food safety standards. Some traceability systems and technologies used for various produce products include barcodes, RFID tags, QR codes, and blockchain sensors (11).

 Conclusion

In environmental sustainability, opting for eco-friendly transportation alternatives and packaging materials represents an avenue to diminish the carbon footprint linked to food transportation. By adopting greener practices, the supply chain assumes a heightened environmental responsibility, aligning with broader initiatives to establish a sustainable and resilient food distribution system. Fundamentally, adequate transportation serves as a mechanism for averting food waste and is a strategic element in nurturing a more sustainable and conscientious food supply chain.

References

  1. Hammond, S. T., Brown, J. H., Burger, J. R., Flanagan, T. P., Fristoe, T. S., Mercado-Silva, N., Nekola, J.C. & Okie, J. G. (2015). Food spoilage, storage, and transport: Implications for a sustainable future. BioScience, 65(8), 758-768. https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biv081
  2. Ziv, C., & Fallik, E. (2021). Postharvest storage techniques and quality evaluation of fruits and vegetables for reducing food loss. Agronomy, 11(6), 1133. https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy11061133
  3. Ishangulyyev, R., Kim, S., & Lee, S. H. (2019). Understanding Food Loss and Waste: Why Are We Losing and Wasting Food? Foods, 8(8), 297. https://doi.org/10.3390/foods8080297
  4. Thyberg, K. L., & Tonjes, D. J. (2016). Drivers of food waste and their implications for sustainable policy development. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 106, 110-123. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.resconrec.2015.11.016
  5. Tapsoba, L. D., Kiemde, S. M., Lamond, B. F., & Lépine, J. (2022). On the potential of packaging for reducing fruit and vegetable losses in Sub-Saharan Africa. Foods, 11(7), 952. https://doi.org/10.3390/foods11070952
  6. Garcia-Garcia, G., Woolley, E., Rahimifard, S., Colwill, J., White, R., & Needham, L. (2017). A methodology for sustainable management of food waste. Wasteand Biomass Valorization, 8(6), 2209-2227. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12649-016-9720-0
  7. Mahmood, M., Sultan, M. & Miyazaki, T. (2019). Significance of Temperature and Humidity Control for Agricultural Products Storage: Overview of Conventional and Advanced Options. International Journal of Food Engineering, 15(10), 20190063. https://doi.org/10.1515/ijfe-2019-0063
  8. Fang, Y., & Wakisaka, M. (2021). A review of the modified atmosphere preservation of fruits and vegetables with cutting-edge technologies. Agriculture, 11(10), 992. https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture11100992
  9. Amicarelli, V., & Bux, C. (2021). Food waste measurement toward a fair, healthy and environmental-friendly food system: A critical review. British Food Journal, 123(8), 2907-2935. https://doi.org/10.1108/BFJ-07-2020-0658
  10. Karanth, S., Feng, S., Patra, D., & Pradhan, A. K. (2023). Linking microbial contamination to food spoilage and food waste: the role of smart packaging, spoilage risk assessments, and date labelling. Frontiers in Microbiology, 14, 1198124. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2023.1198124
  11. Goossens, Y., Wegner, A., & Schmidt, T. (2019). Sustainability assessment of food waste prevention measures: a review of existing evaluation practices. Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems, 3, 476725. https://doi.org/10.3389/fsufs.2019.00090

 

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