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Refrigeration the key to world food supply

John Mandyck: “It is hard to imagine a more inefficient system for such a critical resource”

UK: The importance of refrigeration in efforts to prevent food waste and create a robust global food chain was highlighted at a world-first summit in London yesterday.

The World Cold Chain Summit to Reduce Food Waste, organised by US air conditioning and refrigeration manufacturer Carrier, brought together representatives from across the food supply chain to hear how food waste is not only contributing to a lack of food but is also a significant contributor to CO2 emissions.

The statistics presented are stark: a massive 40% of the food we currently produce goes to waste, yet up to 875 million people worldwide go hungry every day. 38% of the planet’s ice-free land is already given up to farming, yet by the end of the century the current global population of 7.3 billion is expected to have grown by over 30%.

Philippe Cousteau: keynote speech

What is less well known is the degree to which farming and, in particular, food waste contributes to global warming. Describing food as the most critical resource for the human race, UTC’s chief sustainability officer John Mandyck revealed that farming accounts for 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than transport (13%) and second only to industry at 19%

“And 40% of the food we produce doesn’t make it to our tables – It is hard to imagine a more inefficient system for such a critical resource,” he said. 

The embodied CO2 in food waste is put at 3.3 billion tonnes. 37% of that waste is by the consumer and 63% in production. In India, for instance, farmers are losing 50% of produce before it reaches the market.

“Government’s must play a role with food safety standards in the merging economies,” said John Mandyck. “We need the food safety standards not only to make sure that the integrity of the food is maintained, and is safe and healthy for consumption, but we know that food safety standards help jump start the cold chain.”

The assembled delegates from 12 countries heard environmental campaigner Philippe Cousteau, grandson of Jacques Cousteau, give the keynote speech, describing how the world’s oceans were a fundamental issue of climate change, with a third of CO2 being absorbed by the sea, making the water more acidic and having a consequent adverse affect on sea life.

David Appel, president of Carrier Transicold and Refrigeration Systems, summed up the task in his opening address: “By better managing our food supply with cold chain technology we can reduce food loss and waste, we can feed more people and we can make substantial reductions in the level of greenhouse gas emissions.”

Related stories:

IMechE: refrigeration must feed the world – June 30, 2014
UK: The Institution of Mechanical Engineers has called for urgent action to roll out a sustainable cold chain in the developing world. Read more…

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