Food Distribution

Maintaining the cold chain and combating food waste

25 March 2022 by Edina GÁLFI


The figures are staggering and uncontested.

In spite of today’s over-optimised mass intensive agricultural and livestock production, 20% of the world’s food production is wasted, at every stage in the distribution chain.

And yet the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) call for a drastic reduction of food waste caused by households and retail outlets by 2030.

Nevertheless, we note that 475 million tonnes of food could be saved, each year, simply by maintaining a continuous cold chain, enough to feed 950 million people in the world.

This raises the question of what existing solutions can be used to reduce the wastage and guarantee the food security of as many people as possible.

1.Global food consumption

Improving food availability by reducing waste. That is an approach that makes sense, one that places a responsibility on all the operators and actors in the food supply and distribution chain.

According to FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations), 14% of the foodstuffs produced in the world are wasted before they are even sold to the general public.

The supply chain as it operates today comprises four main pillars, each of which is subject to its own types of waste: agricultural plant and animal production, processing and packaging, distribution and then consumption.

Vegetables, cereals, roots and fruit are the food types most affected by wastage. In an era of globalised food consumption, often out of season, it is clear that there is a need to transport produce in temperature-controlled conditions to:

As food distribution channels of foodstuffs become more complex, with the transport and storage times of foodstuffs becoming ever longer, it is necessary, when planning those channels, to take account of the impact of different external factors: temperature, humidity, light and ventilation.

Each type of food possesses its own properties and therefore its conservation is subject to different criteria. This means that to combat food waste it is necessary to be aware of those criteria and draw up an action plan to ensure the safe transportation of each foodstuff.

2.Cold chain and food distribution

When transporting fruit and vegetables, getting the temperature right is an indispensable factor in ensuring their conservation.  To slow down the metabolism and maintain the quality of the produce transported from the nutritional, taste and food safety points of view. A broken cold chain will lead to producing going soft, changing colour and developing mould. On the other hand, an over-optimised cold chain can also lead to a risk of degrading certain organoleptic qualities such as texture.

Each type of foodstuff transported therefore needs to be the subject of a specific thermal analysis taking in all the stages in the product’s logistics journey: from the place of production to the end consumer’s table. Each transit phase involves a thermal risk.

Focus – the regulations in France

The transport of perishable goods is subject in France, as well as in 47 other countries around the world, to a set of strict regulations known as ATP (Agreement on the International Carriage of Perishable Foodstuffs). This requires foodstuffs to be transported in food transport containers at a controlled temperature that depends on their recommended storage temperature: -20°C for frozen goods, +2°C/+4°C for chilled foodstuffs, +4°C/+8°C or +10°C/+15°C for certain fruit and vegetables.

An ATP certificate is required for any distribution journey of more than 80 km.

3.Solutions for reducing pre-sale food wastage

In France since 2016 the Garot Law has obliged all supermarkets bigger than 400 m² to donate unsold food to charities. Since 2018, this requirement has also applied to mass catering and the agrifood industry.

The optimisation of the supply chain and the need to combat food waste then necessarily require the introduction and organisation of efficient and cost-effective refrigerated logistics.  Adopting hybrid solutions that are both flexible and effective has become a priority for warehouses managing flows of living produce, whether they be those of the producers, wholesalers or mass retail chains. For we must not forget that food waste costs 400 billion dollars a year.

One of the most cost-effective and flexible solutions in cold logistics remains the insulated container. Using these containers makes it possible to transport chilled, frozen and dry goods together and allows operators to broaden their spectrum of food distribution activities whilst minimising wastage due to poor cold chain management.

Safe, smart transport

Logistics solutions based on passive cooling meet many of today’s challenges: cost-effectiveness, productivity, safety and flexibility.

The insulated container with its dedicated cooling solution, adopted by a large number of operators in the food distribution sector, allows the transportation of all types of volumes, products in every temperature range (-20°C, +2°C/+4°C and ambient).

Find out more about the different ranges of Olivo products here. Our sales team is available to help with any questions you may have.

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