I’m Guilty Too…Americans Waste 40% of Food

It turns out I’m a contributor to a national, rather, global crisis!  I’m guilty of buying and preparing more food than I eat and tossing the leftovers into the trash.  I didn’t think much about it until now.

A recent report from the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) says that Americans waste 40% of the food in the U.S. each year – that comes to a whopping $165 billion essentially tossed into the garbage – the single largest component of solid waste in U.S. landfills.

And, given the global food shortage and that the world’s population will mushroom to 9 billion residents by 2050, this would seem to be a problem that requires a solution – and quickly!  Some other alarming statistics found in the report:

  • The average American family of four ends up throwing away the equivalent of $2,275 of food each year.
  • There has been a 50% increase in food waste since the 1970s.
  • A 15% reduction in the amount of food wasted would save enough to feed 25 million Americans each year…25 MILLION!

The report states that the cause of losses in the food system are complex but cites several key problematic areas.  For starters, grocery stores and other retailers lose $15 billion each year in unsold fruits and vegetables alone…about half of our national supply and more than any other food product.  Consumers are also a major contributor to the problem as we order too much food in restaurants and don’t eat our leftovers at home – all of which goes into the garbage.

Wasted food also leads to wasted resources.  As the report points out, land, energy and water are used to produce this food that is never consumed.  More shocking statistics: 25% of all of the freshwater consumed and 4% of the oil goes into producing this food and 23% of the methane emissions in the U.S. are generated from food waste.

The report summarizes that “Increasing the efficiency of our food system is a triple-bottom-line solution that requires collaborative efforts by businesses, government and consumers.”

Europe is already getting its act together.  Earlier this year the European Parliament passed a resolution to reduce food waste 50% by 2020.  A public awareness program in the United Kingdom has already contributed to an 18% reduction in avoidable food waste.

I can do better with my food planning and together we can also take steps to reduce waste in the food system.  We often try to figure out how to grow more food but, as this study points out, we can also feed more people by wasting less food.  We can put less strain on our natural reasons by maximizing our post harvest yield by driving waste and shrink out of the supply chain.  Intelleflex has been advocating how pallet-level temperature monitoring can enable things like uniform pallet building and prioritized routing that helps ensure delivered freshness and reduce spoilage from field to fork.  The beauty of it is that, by implementing this approach, food producers make more money.  It’s a win win.  You can learn more about this solution here.
Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing


Hot News: Food Safety and Delivery Trucks

It was in many ways a hot week for news relating to food safety and food waste.  Part of this was fueled by the ongoing tragedy about cantaloupes and salmonella…this following on previous cantaloupe issues with listeria.  Then there was a recall for packaged salad mix relating to potential listeria issues.  I think America is waking up to the complexity of the cold chain and the challenges we face ensuring food safety and quality.

If we aren’t awake yet, then we should all watch this new video from NBC’s Today Show on Thursday, August 23.  This report from NBC’s Jeff Rossen is a follow up from a previous report earlier this year about how food shipped in supposedly properly refrigerated trucks in fact is being heated to temperatures of – in one case – 101°F!  This creates an environment for listeria, salmonella and e Coli to thrive.  The video shows all too graphically juice from thawed chicken parts dripping out of cartons and onto cabbage.  We used to hear about these things and swear that we would become vegetarians but, heck, as shown in the video, everything’s contaminated.

NBC Today Show image shows thawed chicken juice that leaked in a trailer whose refrigeration system wasn’t working.

What can be done about it?  Well, part of the problem is that it is nearly impossible to enforce proper temperature management in transit.  This is due in part to the police not having general authority to pull over trucks and arrest people for improper refrigeration and, even if they did, how would they check the massive numbers of reefers that traverse our highways every day?

Fortunately, temperature monitoring can help, but just having a single monitor in a trailer probably isn’t adequate as loads are moved around, pallets are reorganized and things can sit on loading docks.  Pallet-level temperature monitors, either built directly into the pallets or placed in with the product itself, can provide a temperature record from harvest to retailer or food service provider to document freshness and proper handling.  Monitoring pallets in this way would make it easy to identify when pallets haven’t been properly cooled in transit and perhaps help to reduce or eliminate health risks associated with improper handling.

And, fortunately, we’re seeing visionary retail grocers and restaurants starting to implement these tactics to ensure that they’re not selling tainted produce, meats and dairy items so there’s hope.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

Food Safety Audits – Impacts on Traceability

Lara Sowinski of Food Logistics magazine wrote a great article on Food Safety Audits that’s well worth the read.  In the article, she discusses how the impacts of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), increasing imports, growing recalls and supply chain complexity are pressuring the industry to maintain and improve food safety.

Food safety audits will impact traceability requirements – RFID can help

The article quotes Melanie J. Neuman, an advisory manager who specializes in food safety issues for PricewaterhouseCooper’s retail and consumer practice who says that, when it comes to the impact of the FSMA, “companies are facing the most sweeping changes in food regulations in over 70 years.”

Neuman explains that the role of PwC is to advise its clients on best practices to meet and comply with regulations, not only for the FSMA, but for a host of food safety laws and regulations that are governed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“We really help clients integrate food safety into their culture and their daily operations,” says Neuman.  This is the first stage, she explains in the interview, but then they drill deeper with their clients.  Neuman continues that “The next step of the assessment starts to drill deeper into other categories, such as whether or not the company’s electronic traceability systems are robust enough to comply with the current regulations and their customers’ expectations for producing reports. We look at the company’s ability to track and trace products accurately and quickly, including the ability to identify all ingredients, including raw materials, all production and inventory records, and all distribution on an outbound basis, in order to quickly track product in the event of a food borne illness or other food safety risk.”

Neuman states that tracking and tracing capabilities are high on the list of items that an auditor will examine during an inspection and adds that “record keeping practices go hand in hand with tracking and tracing.”

RFID and intelligent pallets and returnable transport items can help deal with the complexities of the modern supply chain.  With all of the hand offs and issues associated with increasingly diverse and extensive supply chains, making it easier to capture, store and share electronic traceability information every step of the way will be critical.  To learn how, click here.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

SmartView from Antaris Helps Panalpina Gear Up For Temperature Controlled Shipments

SmartView, an award winning solution for cool chain optimization from Intelleflex partner Antaris Solutions, is utilizing RFID solutions such as Intelleflex temperature monitoring tags and readers to enable logistics provider Panalpina to better control and manage shipments of temperature sensitive goods such as pharmaceuticals.  A story, which appeared recently in Logistics Week and a number of other publications details how SmartView delivers new levels of visibility and control by providing Panalpina with actionable data about the status of their shipments as they move from the manufacturer in Europe to the United States via Panalpina’s 747 air freighters.

Panalpina, with operations on six continents, uses SmartView in its own controlled air freight network. SmartView provides Panalpina an integrated control center to manage temperature sensitive shipments throughout the end-to-end supply chain. Temperatures can be documented in the air, and actively monitored in the transit warehouse and on the road. Where there are instances of temperature deviations, Panalpina now has the tools to proactively intervene.

SmartView, from Antaris Solutions, Provides Actionable Data In-transit – Not Just After Delivery

Traditional data loggers only provide information about the condition of a shipment after it has been delivered when it is too late to take any corrective action.  Monitoring the products in transit using Antaris’ SmartView as they move from manufacturer to the customer enables Panalpina to provide a better level of service to their customers creating a competitive advantage for them in the marketplace.  This process can all be automated so that Panalpina can collect data even where they have no personnel.

With the massive increase in the volume and value of temperature sensitive pharmaceuticals, the old approach to monitoring temperature sensitive shipments is inadequate for managing today’s cool chain.  Solutions like SmartView utilize the latest in RFID to address the challenges faced by today’s pharmaceutical manufacturers and third party logistics providers.  You can learn more about SmartView by viewing this recent IQPC webinar in which Antaris Solutions Managing Director explains how SmartView is helping Panalpina deliver a superior service to its customers.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

This Chardonnay Has an Elegant Bouquet and Bright, Crisp RFID Tag

I worked at a winery during my college years.  Talking about wine with visitors is a lot of fun and the winery had visitors from all over the world.  Often, when they wanted to buy wine they’d ask how it well it ships.  Can it get too hot?  Too Cold?  Does it spoil?

RFID complements wine nicely!

Recently I came across two articles relating to wine shipments and quality.  An article in RFID Journal discusses a GS1 study done last year (with results published this year) involving wine being shipped from Italy to Hong Kong.  The purpose of this test was primarily to improve supply chain operations and determine how well imported products could be monitored using an RFID solution to track the bottles from when they were shipped from the wine producer until they left the local importer, en route to the wine shops in Hong Kong.  As a fringe benefit though, the GS1 study also included Intelleflex temperature monitoring tags to see if the wines were exposed to extreme temperatures on their voyage from Europe to Asia.  (Freezing or baking wine during shipment, um, not so good.)

According to the article: GS1 Italy determined that the accuracy of supply chain data could be increased from 80 percent (when orders were filled according to a purchase order) to 100 percent, and that logistics management could be improved based on having better knowledge of products’ locations….the technology proved that retailers in Hong Kong can “achieve full visibility of the whole movement of the wine products, from oversea vineyard to their storage destination, which eventually improved their inventory management and quality assurance. In the future, the technology could help retailers predict overstock or out-of-stock events, and provide consumers with quality assurance in stores, by reading a label’s tag in order to access data regarding when and where wine was bottled, as well as the temperature at which it was stored.

Another story discusses a company called Vinfolio that is using temperature monitors (the article doesn’t say if they’re RFID-based) to test temperatures of wine as it is being shipped around the country in trucks and airplanes.  Their conclusion thus far is that, using proper packaging, your wine is probably safe.  Phew.  That’s a relief but, if you’re shipping high value temperature sensitive products, you’ll want to be sure about their condition in transit and take care to identify problems before they occur.  RFID is now a part of that solution for temperature sensitive goods from produce to florals to pharmaceuticals and even to things like wine or chocolate.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

Bonus Question: Where is the worst place in your home to store your wine?  (Clue: it’s often the place that most people store their wine!)  Email me with your answers!

Chinese Food and Free Traceability

I love Chinese food but this post isn’t about Cashew Chicken or Chow Mein.  An article in Western Farm Press (and reposted by Food Logistics Magazine) mentions that China is now the 4th largest importer of fresh vegetables into the USA.  Not surprising really. Half of the fresh fruit and one-fourth of the vegetables consumed in the U.S. are imported. It’s not just produce either as 86% of the many types of fish we eat comes from other countries. What does this mean for food safety?

The story in Western Farm Press references Dr. Juan Anciso, a Texas AgriLife Extension Service horticulturist and food safety expert, who says “Assuring safe food supplies is increasingly important for fresh fruits and vegetables as state and federal governments eye legislation to regulate safety issues, both domestically and internationally, because of past outbreaks.”

Reduce Waste. Improve Quality. Get Traceability.

Dr. Luis Ribera, an agricultural economist at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Weslaco, suggests that an inexpensive labor force and good growing conditions in China and other countries can lead to increased risk of contaminated food.  He was recently in China to discuss the new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), signed into law last year by President Obama. “What this law basically says about imported fresh produce is that the importer/broker who imports fresh produce from overseas into the U.S. is now liable for that produce once it’s in the U.S.,” according to Ribera.

The new FSMA law sets food safety standards on production, harvesting, handling and packaging on all produce, including imports, Ribera said. Until now, such standards had just been guidelines. Ribera is working on a project that to measure the impact of FSMA on fruit and vegetable production in the USA, as well as any impact on produce imports.  He concludes that he suspects the new rules – many of which are still in development by the government –  will likely increase the cost of production for fruits and vegetables, both domestically and overseas.

He could be right, but it doesn’t have to be that way.  In fact, you can essentially get traceability solutions for free.  How?

A significant portion of produce goes to waste each year (Forbes says it is $35 billion.  A GS1 article says IBM estimates it closer to $458 billion.)  This waste is due to spoilage, as much of half of which can be attributed to improper temperature management across the supply chain – a challenge made worse by the longer trips associated with importing food from Asia or other parts of the world that can increase the risk of spoilage or food safety problems.  By implementing pallet-level temperature monitoring and management solutions you can significantly reduce the amount of food wasted in the supply chain and generate more revenue…more than enough to rapidly recover the investment in the solutions.  One case study we published showed that the customer was able to pay for the solution in a single growing season.  The beauty of it is that, along with reducing waste and shrink, the solution also automatically provides you with  traceability data.  It doesn’t cost extra…it’s part of the solution’s benefits.

You can learn more about how this works by clicking here or you can email me.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing