How Much Does 2,000,000,000 Tons of Food Waste Cost Us?

Food Waste is Just Plain Ugly

Food Waste is Just Plain Ugly

2,000,000,000 is a big number and when applied to tons of food waste it’s a massive problem.  A new report, published by The Institute of Mechanical Engineers,  a U.K.-based engineering society and think tank, states that of the four billion tons of food produced annually worldwide up to half of it goes to waste. Among the causes:

  • Poor harvesting, storage and transportation methods
  • Plain old consumer waste (we buy too much and throw it out)
  • Overly conservative and misunderstood “sell-by” dates, driven mostly by grocers looking to avoid legal actions

I italicize the last part because part of the problem is that grocers don’t know the condition of their food when they receive it. They don’t know how the product’s condition at harvest, how it was handled, if it was shipped properly or if it has a week of shelf life or only a couple of days. Their answer: dump it and factor it into the cost of doing business.

But who pays for that?

(How many guesses do you need?)

Having metrics about the history and condition of perishable products when they are received by the retailer can help. But, as mentioned in this report, the problem starts far before the food ever gets to the retailer.  You have to start managing the product at harvest to ensure it is properly stored, processed and handled. Growers, packers, shippers and retailers need actionable data at every step along the supply chain to reduce or eliminate waste before product gets to the stores and ensuring better quality, fresher products for consumers.

Wasting less food has numerous benefits:

  • Costs are reduced (and revenues increase)
  • Quality can be improved
  • Less water, fuel and fertilizer is wasted
  • More people can be fed with the same amount of production

The tools exist to deal with the problem.  We just have to use them and consumers and retailers need to take the lead.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing – Intelleflex

 

FSMA Makes the Front Page

We’ve been waiting and wondering if the Food Safety Modernization Act was ever going to make it out of the gates.  Now, two years to the day after President Obama signed the FSMA into law, the FDA has announced the release of the proposed rules for the law.  Heck, it even made the front page of our local paper over the weekend!  Those of us in the industry have certainly been aware of the implications of the law but, by and large, the public hasn’t heard much about it. The fact that this is front page news is significant as increased public awareness will also put pressure in the industry to take action.

Front Page News for the FSMA

Front Page News for the FSMA

According to United Fresh, two proposed rules will be released:

The Preventive Controls for Human Food rule would require food companies—whether they manufacture, process, pack or store food—to put in place better controls to minimize and reduce the risk of contamination.

The Produce Safety rule would require farms that grow, harvest, pack or hold fruits and vegetables to follow standards that are aimed at preventing contamination.

FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg said that “The FDA knows that food safety, from farm to fork, requires partnership with industry, consumers, local, state and tribal governments, and our international trading partners. Our proposed rules reflect the input we have received from these stakeholders and we look forward to working with the public as they review the proposed rules.”

The FSMA should motivate the food industry to fundamentally rethink their cold chains.  It’s not a simple feat to move from a reactive methodology that’s been in place for decades to a proactive one but the benefits to consumers – and to the industry – can be immense. It’s important to note that Hamburg specifically mentioned “farm to fork” and “international trading partners”.

Also interesting is commentary (Fresh Plaza and elsewhere) that the expected cost to large farms is estimated by the FDA to be roughly $30,000, and the cost for small farms is expected to reach $13,000. But, when traceability is done in conjunction with temperature monitoring to reduce waste, enough savings can be found to more than pay for the cost of traceability. In effect, the additional revenues by being able to sell more of the produce cover the cost of implementing traceability and then some!

Much has changed in the industry over the years due to globalized and elongated cold chains.  I expect retailer grocers will take the lead on this and begin to mandate electronic temperature and traceability solutions for their suppliers starting in the field, whether that field is in California or Chile.

(You can learn how Intelleflex can help address FSMA requirements here.)

It’s a nice way to start what should be a very interesting – and busy – year.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

Peanut Butter Recall: FDA Shows Teeth Under the FSMA

You know it’s a big thing when our local newspaper finds space amongst all of the ads to print a story about food safety.  But there it was in yesterday’s morning paper: the FDA used new authority under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) to suspended the registration of a peanut butter production facility.  The details of the story relating to salmonella contaminated peanuts can be found here. The tainted products were sold through a number of retailers including  Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Kilwins Quality Confections, and Target.  It’s a tragedy and its great that the FDA stepped in and shut the place down until issues are resolved.

FDA Shuts Down Peanut Butter Factory Using FSMA Powers

There are two key take-aways:

  1. Because of the FSMA, the FDA now actually has the authority to shut the violator down as opposed to recommending voluntary recalls (which was it’s limitation of authority prior to the FSMA).
  2. Retailers should be as supportive as possible to do anything they can to improve food safety and managing recalls. It’s their brand on the line when customers get sick from eating foods purchased at their store. (You’ll remember the names Trader Joes, Whole Foods and Target a lot longer than SunLand (the peanut butter company) after you’ve read this article.) We need to trust our grocers and we need to know that they’re taking all possible measures to protect our safety.

This is a good sign that progress is being made on implementing the FSMA, which was signed into law in January of 2011. It’s a law which will benefit consumers and, we believe, also will improve business across the industry.  According to an article in Food Safety News, “The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is still working “expeditiously” to implement major portions of the Food Safety Modernization Act.  We are working as expeditiously as possible to implement the food safety legislation we fought so hard for. When it comes to rules with this degree of importance and complexity, it is critical that we get it right.”

It is a complex law and it will take time to implement but many feel that, with the 2012 Presidential Election now behind us, things will pick up speed and producers, growers, shippers and retailers will need to focus more aggressively on addressing new traceability and food safety requirements.

The Food Safety News article explains that: The five major pillars of the FSMA will help pivot the nation’s food system from taking a more reactive to a more preventative approach to food safety. If they [the FDA] reduce foodborne illness rates by even a fraction, they have the potential to save Americans billions of dollars in healthcare costs every year.

Those five pillars — all still awaiting implementation — consist of the following:

– Preventive controls: FDA will require science-based preventive controls throughout the food system. This includes requiring food facilities to write preventive control plans, establishing minimum standards for safe production of fruits and vegetables and introducing regulation to help prevent intentional adulteration of food at vulnerable points in the food chain.

– Inspection and compliance: FDA has new authority to conduct inspections. FDA will inspect all high-risk domestic facilities every three years, have access to facility records and will establish a laboratory accreditation process for third-party testing laboratories.

– Response to violations: FDA will now have the authority to order food recalls – as opposed to recommending voluntary recalls as it does now – in cases of contamination. Farms will also be required to track their product and develop plans for how to issue recalls, though small farms that sell the majority of their product locally (within 275 miles) and sell less than $500,000 a year in product are exempt.

– Oversight of imports: Food importers must now verify that their facilities and preventive controls meet U.S. standards. FDA can now deny food from foreign facilities entry to the U.S. if the facility does not allow access to inspectors.

– Collaborative partnerships: Health agencies, both foreign and domestic, will work collaboratively to improve public health goals. FSMA provides FDA with a grant to develop state and local health agencies’ ability to improve food safety at a localized level. FDA will also develop a plan to help improve foreign industries’ ability to meet U.S. food safety requirements.

Addressing food safety regulations and traceability doesn’t have to be viewed as a cost of doing business but rather viewed as an opportunity. By combining a proactive approach to managing the supply chain – using pallet-level temperature monitoring – the industry can significantly reduce waste and generate more revenues and effectively get traceability for free.

If we work together, it can be a win-win. You can learn more about our solution for improving quality and traceability here.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

PS: If you’re interested in reading more about the FSMA, there’s a good summary here.

 

Thought for Food

Tomorrow’s Thanksgiving here in the USA.  If you’re able to read this blog, chances are that, like me, you’re pretty blessed and have much to be thankful for.  And, if you’re like me, you’ll be able to enjoy a wonderful meal with friends and family that includes a nice entree (I didn’t use the “T-word”), some vegetables and a wealth of other fresh food items. (Note that everyone’s favorite the Brussels Sprout is experiencing a renaissance in time for Thanksgiving! Find more about that here.**)

Who Wants Brussels Sprouts for Thanksgiving???

What you’re probably not thinking about is food safety but every year newspapers publish articles about how to make sure your turkey is properly cleaned, vegetables washed, food cooked  adequately and leftovers stored properly.  If you haven’t seen one of those articles, well, here you go! Read the Sacramento Bee article.

At Intelleflex, we think about food safety every day as food safety and quality is a main focus of our business. We work with growers, grocers and distribution companies to help them make sure that the food you buy at the store is fresh and of high quality. In fact, after you’ve worked at Intelleflex for a while, you can never look at things like a clamshell of strawberries or a bag of spinach the same way!  As the Food Safety Modernization Act begins to be implemented, we’ll see even more news about food safety in the year to come.

So, from all of us here at Intelleflex, a safe and happy Thanksgiving to you all.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

**I actually love Brussels Sprouts.  Just wash them thoroughly, peel the leaves off, saute with some bacon and toss in some chopped pecans and garlic.

PMA: How Do I Know My Produce is Delivered Fresh?

At the annual Produce Marketing Association convention here in Anaheim, there are acres of fresh produce companies and many of them are coming by the Intelleflex booth (#3185) asking how they can be sure that their produce is delivered fresh and has been properly handled throughout the cold chain.  Fortunately, Intelleflex’ Harry Kuo has the answer.

Harry answers the question: How can I improve Delivered Freshness?

Pallet-level temperature monitoring does the trick, enabling improved routing using FEFO inventory, reducing shrink and providing a complete traceability record as well.  Growers, packers, shippers and retailers can all benefit from pallet-level temperature monitoring.  If you’re at PMA, come by the Intelleflex booth and ask us to show you how it works and how you can improve your cold chain operations.
Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

Cold Chain ≠ Arrested Development

Netflix gave me an idea when they announced they were resurrecting one of my favorite TV shows.  As I had the pleasure of speaking at an Expeditors International seminar last week about temperature monitoring in the health care cold chain, I decided to tie the theme of my presentation to the soon to be continuing perils of the Bluth Family so well chronicled in the show “Arrested Development”.  The foundation for my presentation was that the cold chain of tomorrow is a very different one from today.  There are a number of changes that are dramatically impacting the industry including:

  • The increasing number of off-patent drugs
  • Increase in the volume and value of biologics
  • The shift to using 3PLs
  • Increasing climate instability making summer/winter packaging riskier
  • The disappearance of wide body aircraft on domestic flights limiting use of active refrigerated containers
  • ePedigree, serialization and inference
  • RFID proven safe for biologics

The impact of these changes will require healthcare manufacturers (both for biologics and even medical equipment) to rethink their cold chains. Even when routes are validated and procedures are in place, what can you do to ensure that temperature sensitive products are safe for use when delivered?  To quote a famous American president:

Trust but Verify

Yes.  Trust but verify.  It’s one thing to trust your supply chain but it’s equally critical to verify that the products have been properly handled as they move from manufacturer to the customer.  ISO Class 3 RFID provides this capability.  Because it can be read through containers without opening or unpacking (helping to document authenticity) and provides a complete temperature and way point history, Class 3 RFID tags (like XC3 Technology) make it easier to implement a solution that helps manufacturers and 3PLs to manage – not just monitor – their cold chains.

The health care and pharma cold chain should utilize new technologies to address new cold chain dynamics.  Doing so will prevent “Arrested Development” for the cold chain and, to quote one of the show’s characters, prevent you from “making a huge mistake”.

To view the presentation on SlideShare, please click here.
Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

From NPR: Tissue Tracking and Health Risks

During my drive to the office this morning I heard an interesting story on NPR’s Morning Edition titled Little Regulation Poses Problems Tracking Tissue.  You can listen to or read the entire story here.  According to the story, each year in the United States, almost 1.5 million medical products are used  for surgeries made with tissue taken from cadavers.  Despite this vast number, fortunately there have been few issues or problems so far associated with using human tissue but, when there is an issue, it can be tricky to catch and the consequences can be life threatening.

1.5 million medical products are used each year for surgeries made with human tissue

The story describes a case where tissue contaminated with Hepatitis C was accidentally distributed for use by patients.  Hospitals had to be alerted and the race was on to find where the tissue had been sent.  The story states: In this case, 44 ligaments, tendons and other donated tissue were sent to hospitals and clinics around the country. Unlike organs, which are quickly transplanted, tissue can be saved and stored for use at a much later date. A month later [Italics are mine], the CDC found 15 people already had been implanted, but didn’t contract the disease. That’s because their tissue was scrubbed with strong chemicals. But there was one infection: A child in Boston received a heart patch, and because heart tissue can be cleaned only lightly, that child contracted Hepatitis C. The child’s current health condition hasn’t been made public.

According to the story, the FDA says it continues to evaluate the need for new regulations and has started requiring tissue banks to do limited tracking but, once the tissue is sold to hospitals, clinics and doctors, it is voluntary for those surgeons to report back what tissue gets transplanted into which patient.  And, as the business grows globally and tissue comes to the U.S. from countries around the world, keeping track of tissue is even harder.

Matthew Kuehnert, a doctor at the CDC whose job it is to protect donated blood, organs and tissue suggests the process of receiving tissue should be similar to buying cereal at the grocery store.  Said Kuehnert, “It has a bar code on it, and it can be tracked back if there is some sort of problem with it in terms of quality,” he says. “You can’t do that with tissue right now. And that is a gap.”

While I get where Dr. Kuehnert is going with his cereal analogy, I think it comes up a bit short.  Unlike cereal, tissue is temperature sensitive.  You not only need to be able to track where it has come from and where it is going but also monitor and track the condition that it’s been stored in along the way.  If tissue isn’t stored at the right temperature, it can also cause problems that can lead to health implications.  Bar codes can’t monitor for that. Fortunately, RFID temperature sensors can, while also storing the information about the tissue and help improve track and trace capabilities.  You can read about this here.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing