From hi-tech coatings to improving the state of the roads, there is a plethora of ways we can reduce the amount of fruit and veg that goes bad before it reaches our plates.
Approximately 17% of the items accessible to customers are thrown away (UN Report), albeit this includes food that stores reject off their shelves, fruits and vegetables that end up in restaurant trash, and home rubbish.
Preventing food waste is still an issue today, although the stakes have shifted somewhat. The global greenhouse gas emissions from wasted food are around ten times higher than those from the UK.
Meat waste adds the most to these figures since the energy needed to generate it is often several times larger than that necessary to create plant-based diets.
Many of the solutions available to companies today to prevent food waste include the use of plastics and chemicals. According to 2022 Swiss research, the climatic advantages of wrapping cucumbers in plastic are almost five times more than the negative climate implications of the packing itself.
One potentially promising technique is an edible coating, which involves wrapping fruits and vegetables in a protective film that may be ingested with the meal. Coatings made of beeswax or paraffin were popular in the 1930s. It was when waxing fruits like apples became fashionable. When apples are taken from the tree, they contain a natural wax covering that is removed during the washing process. Apples, oranges, lemons, and other fruits are often recoated with an artificial coating to help preserve moisture and improve shelf life.
Another emerging way to boost edible coatings is to use nano-materials – materials with a particle size of fewer than 100 nanometres. If you make the particles smaller, you can improve the functional performance of edible films and coatings, for example, by increasing their strength and barrier properties (BBC).
Bacteriophages, which are viruses that destroy bacteria, might be another viable answer for increasing the shelf life and safety of fruits and vegetables. Treating food with pulsed light, or extremely bright bursts of light may preserve strawberries lovely and firm in the fridge for up to eight days.
These certain ways can and should be adopted to preserve our food for the future.