New tactile freshness indicator may push best before dates to the bin

 

A new tactile, bioreactive expiry date allows consumers to feel when their food is no longer fresh. Invented by London-based designer Solveiga Pakstaite, “Bump Mark” feels smooth when a package of food is fresh and will turn rough and bumpy when it has expired. This process is due to a gelatin substance inside the package that decays at a similar rate to food. As it has similar properties to perishable food like meat, the gelatin will be affected if food is not stored properly, or exposed to warm temperatures during transportation, making it an accurate reflection of the freshness of food inside the package.

The printed expiry dates we see on food today can be unclear to consumers and can contribute significantly to household food waste. Consumers have no way of knowing if food has been stored incorrectly, or if the food has gone bad while in the package. The bioreactive nature of Bump Mark offers a solution to the confusion.

“The label simply copies what the food in the package is doing, so the expiry information is going to be far more accurate than a printed date.” Pakstaite said in an interview with The Guardian.

When she started out, Pakstaite wanted to create a tactile that could be used by the blind, so that they could know when food had expired. However, knowing that large companies would not likely  make a sweeping change for a small part of the population, Pakstaite went on to market the Bump Mark as a tool to reduce food waste as well as empower the blind. Her work has made headlines around the world and has earned her the James Dyson Award, a charity run by the James Dyson Foundation that supports innovations in technology, engineering and design.

The Bump Mark can be altered depending on the food by altering its concentration of gelatin.The more gelatin in the package, the slower it decays. It can be applied to many products but it may be most useful for animals products like meat, dairy and seafood.

You can read more about Pakstaite’s work on her website.

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Guelph prof develops natural spray that keeps produce fresh for longer

Jay Subramanian's has developed a spray that would extend the lifespan of peaches and nectarines by at least week - doubling its shelf life.

With the application of the spray, peaches could see an extended shelf life of up to 10 days. (Image from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/kitchener-waterloo/guelph-fruit-spray-extends-shelf-life)

A large portion of global food waste occurs when fresh produce goes bad before we have the opportunity to buy or consume it. Produce often rots on grocery store shelves or in our fridges and fruit bowls, due to the long distances that food travels in our far-reaching food system. There are solutions to this issue, such as buying local and only purchasing produce that you need, but in case that these techniques don’t work (i.e. shipping fresh produce to remote communities) science, as usual, is there to save the day.

As a professor of plant science at the University of Guelph, Jay Subramanian understands all too well the swiftness with which picked produce can become inedible. Although there are currently a variety of protective coatings and waxes that are sprayed onto fruits and vegetables, Subramanian’s protective spray is innovative in its nanotechnology-based approach.

The spray is made from hexanol, a natural component in plants which inhibits the enzyme that breaks down cell walls, causing fruits and vegetable to shrivel and rot.

“Once the walls are protected, the cells are intact and so the whole fruit stays intact,”Subramanian said in an interview with CBC.

Prof. Jay Subramanian. Photo by Martin Schwalbe

Prof. Jay Subramanian. (Photo by Martin Schwable. Image from news.uoguelph.ca)

The spray is perfectly safe for consumption and can be washed off. It can be applied as a spray one and two weeks before harvest, or the fruit can instead be dipped in a hexanol solution postharvest. The result? Fruit lasts up to 50% longer. According to Subramanian, bananas can last up to 40 days, mangos up to 23 and nectarines and peaches have an extended life of up to 10 days, on top of the usual one week they usually have to remain edible.

Subramanian’s project was funded by Global Affairs Canada, through the International Development Program. It also worked with partners in India, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Tanzania and Trinidad and Tabago. The spray is still being reviewed in Canada for commercial use, but the project has hopes of going international in the next four years.

Read more about the hexanol spray here.

How Denmark has become a trailblazer in the food waste revolution

From discount surplus food stores to hosting the Green Growth Forum in their capital city, Denmark has established itself as a world leader in the global fight against food waste. The country has more initiatives to reduce food waste than any other European nation, which have all contributed to a 25% reduction  of food waste over the past few years. Their success is largely due to the grassroots initiative Stop Spild Af Mad or, Stop Wasting Food, a NGO founded by Danish graphic designer Selina Juul. The group aims to educate consumers on the impacts of food waste as well as bring media attention to the issue, through campaigning and being active in policy making. One particularly successful campaign tackled the issue of “UFOs” or “Unidentified Frozen Objects”.

Speaking to The Guardian, Juul said “we ran a campaign about having a clearout once a month to eat your UFOs…We also promoted ‘Sunday leftover tapas’, and the idea that if you’re going away, you give your neighbour everything in your fridge – and they do the same for you.”

Juul also campaigned, and was largely successful, in breaking the stigma associated with asking for doggy bags at restaurants. The practice was previously unpopular among Danes who were embarrassed to be taking home the leftovers, as their name implies the food is only good enough for a dog. Over the years, Stop Spild Af Mad has worked to rebrand them as “goody bags”

Image: Bo Welfare via The Guardian

Stop Spild Af Mad has also partnered with Bo Welfare, a social housing organization in the Danish city of Horsens. They have worked together to establish a pop-up shop where customers pay 20 Kroners (about $3.90 CAD) for a reusable bag, then fill it with any amount of surplus produce from the store shelves.

Another prominent organization in the food waste revolution is WeFood, Denmark’s first surplus grocery store that sells food originally destined for the trash, for 30-50% cheaper. The store has been a huge success partly due to its intentional resistance to being branded a charity. Anyone, from all walks of life can buy the discounted fruits and vegetables. This removes the stigma associated with going to a food bank and allows people from all socioeconomic backgrounds to benefit from inexpensive, healthy produce- all while reducing food waste.

A UK add for the Too Good to Go app

A startup company that has seen amazing success in fighting food waste is Too Good To Go, an app that connects users with leftover foods from all-you-can-eat buffets, which are popular among Danes. The app has now spread to 9 countries, prevented about 200 tonnes of carbon emissions by redirecting food waste and has provided thousands of meals to those in need.

Denmark is making big moves in the fight against food waste. It appears that all of the food waste organizations are taking a bottom-up approach to the issue and are working towards shifting society’s relationship with food from away from indifference and towards one that is more positive and conscientious. As a majority of food waste occurs in the household, these grassroots movements are exactly what is needed to end food waste and create a sustainable food system!

From food waste to fly larvae: the company changing the way we think about bugs

Renowned environmentalist Dr. David Suzuki teamed up with entrepreneur Brad Marchant to create Enterra, an organization that aims to simultaneously solve both global food waste and nutrient shortage issues. Enterra is working to close the broken food system cycle by using organic waste to create animal feed – but not for pigs or chickens. The organization uses food scraps as feed for black soldier flies, whose larvae are used as fertilizer, fish feed, or farm animal feed.

The larvae produced by Enterra may help to replace traditional crop feed stocks, which require a high amount of resources and land to grow. Larvae provide a sustainable, nutrient-rich protein with a much lower ecological footprint.

“Our mission is to secure the world’s food supply,” Enterra’s Victoria Leung said in an interview with The Langley Times. 

Enterra’s products: dried black soldier fly larvae (left) and larvae meal (right) from http://www.enterrafeed.com/products/feed-ingredients/

Based in Vancouver, Enterra’s products can be purchased dried, powdered, live, or in oil form. The black soldier flies are farmed in a hatchery, fed with diverted organic food waste, and their larvae are processed on site. The company also helps to maintain Vancouver’s Zero Waste policy by accepting organics from a variety of sources including grocery stores, farms, and greenhouses.

By closing the food waste loop, recycling nutrients, and creating sustainable protein, Enterra is forging a path for a sustainable food system. However, if you live in Canada, you may have a hard time accessing Enterra’s products. As of now, the company only ships to the USA and Europe; they are still waiting, four years later, to be approved by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

To read more about Enterra’s mission and products, visit their website here.

 

Flashfood app to bring discounted surplus food to Toronto

 

Recently, more and more cities are beginning to use apps that help deter food waste while providing discounted food to consumers. Apps such as Montreal’s Ubifood have seen startling success by providing a virtual platform for users to buy discounted surplus food. These programs work to reduce food waste by connecting hungry consumers with willing sellers who have surplus food on the verge of going bad. With this approach, consumers, sellers, and the planet benefit.

Set to release a beta soft launch in Toronto this August 2016, Flashfood has similar aspirations to reduce waste, while benefiting both sides involved.

“Flashfood is essentially the discount food rack on your cellphone and it’s a means for grocery stores, restaurants, food vendors, being able to resell their surplus food before they’re going to throw it out,” Flashfood CEO Josh Domingues explained in an interview with City TV.

Domingues hopes to expand Flashfood Canada-wide and eventually, go global.

“People have signed up from Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Italy, the States, India, Brazil” he told City TV. “It’s caught on.”

View the Flashfood website here to sign up for notifications relating to the app’s launch.

 

“Ugly produce at pretty prices” – Cerplus app curbs food waste in San Francisco

Ugly produce at pretty prices

That is the slogan for Cerplus, an app aiming to prevent food waste. San Francisco foodie Zoe Wong came up with the idea for the app while strolling through farmers markets. Shocked at how much vendors threw away at the end of the day, she decided something needed to be done.

Initially, Wong launched a company called Revive Jams, preserving and reselling unwanted fruits. However, she noticed that food was still being wasted and the cost of preserving and distributing her products was too much for her small business budget.

This was when Cerplus was born.

Cerplus is an online marketplace (for the San Francisco Bay area only -for now!) that connects users with surplus or unwanted fruits and vegetables for a fraction of the cost. Sellers can post produce, buyers browse through potential deals, and Cerplus picks up and delivers the order to the customer. With this method, vendors can still make money on extra or “ugly” produce, consumers get quality, affordable produce, and food waste is drastically reduced.

You can read more about Zoe’s work on the Cerplus website.

(Image from www.getcerplus.com)

 

 

 

Machine turns food waste into cooking fuel

Based in Beit Yanai, Isreal, Home Biogas is an innovative technology that transforms organic waste into fuel for cooking, right in your backyard. The technology creates a clean-burning gas from organic food waste and pet waste, and the liquid by-product can be used as plant fertilizer.

The current cost for one unit is set at $995, however the United Nations Development Program has expressed interest in providing Biogas units to small villages. As it runs without electricity and produces the equivalent of 6 kilo-watt hours of energy every day, the UNDP believes it could be useful for those who live in remote areas. It can also provide electricity and heat instead of gas.

You can read more about Biogas here.