As the sheer scale of corporate and private food waste continues to grow as a political and economic issue, more and more groups are stepping up to show just how much our wasteful practices are costing us. 

The newly formed Australian Food Cold Chain Council aims to address food wastage by tackling the root of the problem, and showing food producers, logistics operators, supermarkets and consumers just how much wastage occurs across the country: roughly $20 billion per year. 

In November 2017, the Federal Department of the Environment and Energy released their National Food Waste Strategy, outlining the scale of food wastage, in both dollar and social terms. The report also outlined possible and recommended approaches to halving food waste within the next twelve years. 

The AFCCC is trying to spread that message as far and wide as possible. 

“We want to change the industry for the better,” said Mark Mitchell, chair of the AFCCC and managing director of cold storage and transport specialist Supercool Asia Pacific.

The AFCCC is targeting the middle section of the cold food chain, which the Government estimates accounts for almost a third of the $20 billion lost annually. “Food moving from the farm to the consumer – in transport and in storage – accounts for $6.4 billion in losses annually,” said Mitchell.

“Unfortunately, there is a tendency for businesses in refrigerated transport and storage to be price driven, rather than quality driven. The by-product of this is wastage, a lack of compliance and a disregard for correct procedures.”

Mitchell said that the “cost” of discarded food does not only represent the price paid for it by the consumer, it is calculated based on the water, fuel and human resources it took to get it from the paddock to the plate – though food waste does not occur only at the end of the supply chain. 

The vast majority of wastage occurs far before food makes it to the end consumer, meaning that the supply chain is responsible for approximately three quarters of wastage. It is this huge middle section of the cold food chain that provides the largest target for improvement. 

“We’ve been trying to do things ‘better’ for many years, while trying to appeal to businesses that are driven by the dollar to step up,” Mitchell said. “It’s very hard to ask companies to pick up their quality games when everyone is focusing on delivering the cheapest product."

“In recent times, society, consumers, governments – everyone who lives on the planet – they have realised that we can’t keep abusing the environment like we have been. With this shift in focus, we can encourage refrigerated logistics businesses to do the job properly, resulting in a cold chain that produces less wastage and fewer emissions, while improving food safety and quality for consumers.”

The end goal for the AFCCC is to get every stakeholder carrying food for Australian consumers to comply with voluntary accreditation and qualification, through a common desire to do better rather than through fear of legal reproach.

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