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Eliminating Food Waste by Keeping Your Produce Fresh
Food waste occurs at every point on the food chain, from producers to consumers. 40% of food in America goes to waste, equaling roughly $115 billion per year. About 40-50% of food waste occurs at the consumer level. A number of things contribute to this waste, from poor meal planning to confusion over expiration dates. Ideally, if there were a way to make food last longer before going bad, it might save a significant amount of the 1,160 pounds of food the average family of 4 wastes annually. Recent innovations in food preservation, particularly produce, could do just that.
Preserving Produce Through Ethylene Inhibitors
A Chicago-based company called Hazel Technologies has developed packaging inserts that ward off fungus and mold, slowing the deterioration of produce. The inserts are either in the form of pads that fit into fruit containers or sachets the size of sugar packets that can be put inside produce packages. The inserts emit ethylene inhibitors and anti-fungal agents. Ethylene is a natural plant-ripening hormone, so it’s suppression can keep food fresh for weeks rather than days.
The inserts are biodegradable and non-toxic. This is a welcome alternative to the use of chemical sprays to keep food fresh. The technology also allows farmers to sell to markets that may have previously been too far for produce to arrive fresh. The startup is quickly gaining traction. In only a few weeks, they raised $800,000 for manufacturing and development.
Edible Coatings Keep Produce Fresh
A Santa Barbara-based startup called Apeel Sciences has developed edible coatings that can be sprayed on produce to extend it’s shelf life. The products, Edipeel and Invisipeel, have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Apeel Sciences claims that the products can keep food fresh up to five times longer.
Edipeel keeps water from leaving produce while simultaneously keeping oxygen from entering. Invisipeel keeps insects away. Both processes are what allows food to decay. Once dry, the coatings shield food from natural gases such as oxygen and ethylene. The coatings are made from molecules of the discarded materials from organic produce. On their website, you can see the difference in decay rate for untreated food and food treated with Edipeel.
Fighting the Stresses of the Food Chain
A company in London created a product called It’s Fresh! which operates similarly to the inserts developed by Hazel Technologies. The “filters” that come in the form of transit sheets, pads, or labels, absorb and lock in ethylene. The product is said to extend the shelf life of produce by four days. It’s Fresh, much like Hazel Technologies’ inserts or Apeel’s products, benefits every step of the food chain, saving money for farmers, grocers, and consumers alike.
Reducing food waste by only 25% would save enough food to feed 25 million people annually. Crops are struggling to grow in an increasingly hotter climate, which means utilizing as much harvested produce as possible is essential. Though there are other steps consumers and producers must take to reduce food waste, perfecting produce preservation is a massive step in itself.
Image courtesy of pixabay.com
Heidi Reidel is a recent graduate from Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois with a BA in Creative Writing and a minor in Psychology. She is a freelance writer and an advocate for victims of domestic violence at a local shelter.
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