Christmas is coming and so is food waste

Food waste fighting social enterprise Good & Fugly wants to help organisations of all sizes change habits for good while spreading good cheer this Christmas, a season when overall waste increases by around 30 per cent. In fact, 90 per cent of Australians discard over 25 per cent of their food during the festive period.

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OzHarvest targets food waste on World Food Day

Today, on World Food Day, OzHarvest will show Aussies that tackling climate change, starts with your plate!  The social media campaign #countmein aims to inspire individual action and show thatmaking small changes to your own food waste is one of the few personal habits that can actually help restore the planet.

Food waste is often over looked in the climate change debate, but is in fact a major contributor responsible for 8% of global greenhouse gases (more than the aviation sector!) as food left to rot in landfill produces methane—a greenhouse gas that is 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Figures recently released from the Federal Government’s National Business Report  reveal Australia is wasting over 7 million tonnes of food each year, which equates to 298kg of food per person,making Australia the world’s fourth highest food waster per capita.

READ MORE: OzHarvest app designed to help fight hunger

OzHarvest Founder and CEO, Ronni Kahn AO says people are experiencing ‘eco-anxiety’ as most feel helpless in the battle to protect the planet, but reducing food waste is where we can all make a difference every day.

“The amount of food we waste is hard to visualise as once it goes in the bin it’s out of sight and out of mind, which leads us to think we don’t actually waste that much. 298 kg per person is a staggering amount – the same weight as six adult kangaroos. Urgent action is needed if we are to achieve the national target to halve food waste by 2030.”

“Cutting back on our individual food waste is the single most powerful way we can take direct action against climate change. It’s an easy win, both for your pocket and the planet. So from today, we’ll be asking people to #countmein and share what small changes they will make to reduce their food waste,” said Ronni.

Reducing food waste is ranked as the third most effective solution to reducing global warming by scientists at Project Drawdown. Taking action today could prevent 70 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere in the next 30 years and is one of the most effective ways for individuals to protect our partnership with the planet.

To see what small changes you can make, complete the quiz and share the campaign go to

How keeping track of meat leads to longer shelf life

According to the OzHarvest website, the Australian Federal government said that food waste costs the Australian economy $20 billion a year. This includes putting five million tonnes of food in landfill, and the average household’s bin waste is made up of 35 per cent of food.

The same set of figures also state that more than 710,000 Australians rely of food relief every month, with four million people experiencing some form of food insecurity.

With that in mind, Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) and the University of Tasmania are working together and have developed a working model for vacuum-packed beef and sheep meats. This model is being used, with near to real-time collection of temperature data, to predict and manage customer experience of red meat products. Possibilities are also being explored to produce a visual sensor that will indicate when the shelf life of the product is near its end. It will hoped that this will avoid product waste with product no longer being discarded due to a doubtful history as the new packaging will better manage what is to be expected for the shelf life.

At the AUSPACK conference held in Melbourne, Dr Ian Jensen, the program manager, market access science and technology for Meat & Livestock Australia, explained the concept behind the new process.

“First of all, it’s about knowing the shelf life of our product,” he said. “We send product around the world and it takes a long time to get there. Fortunately, our product has a very long shelf life and we at MLA have done research and published studies showing that we get over 140 days of shelf life for beef, and we can get 90 days of shelf life for lamb.

“When we started this work on shelf life, one of our aims was to publish these studies because the industry knew that they got a lot longer shelf life than what the scientific literature was admitting. In many countries around the world, they actually have prescribed maximum shelf life. There’s nothing worse than sending your product to a market and discovering that maybe you only have two weeks to sell it because the mandatory shelf life expires.”

Jensen said that there are some countries in the world where Australia cannot sea freight vacuum-packed chilled meat because exporters cannot get it there within the time of the mandatory shelf life period stated by those countries. One of the aims of the collaboration between the university and MLA, was to publish these studies as a way of getting a greater understanding by regulators in other parts of the world and, hopefully, allowing Australian meat companies to put a more realistic shelf life on their products.

“The reasons why we have a long shelf life is that you need good meat quality. Often, that means having a pH that’s as low as possible for red meat, having good hygiene – ie. a low microbial count – as well as good vacuum packaging with low oxygen transmission and pulling a really good vacuum,” he said. “Last, you need low temperature storage. And, it’s this last factor that can be very variable after you have packed the product. As a meat processor, you can have looked after the first three items very effectively, and then you send your product out into the unknown. They need to have something that will look after the shelf life of the product after it leaves their door. So as far as knowing the shelf life of a product is concerned, Australia can deliver a good quality product – vacuum-packed chilled meat – around the world, regulations notwithstanding.”

The question that MLA and the university asked themselves, was, “How can processors predict the shelf life of that product?” They needed to collect data about the temperature in supply chains and make a prediction of shelf life. The meat industry recommends that processors keep a product just a little bit below 0˚C, so it uses -0.5˚C as its reference temperature. At this temperature, meat doesn’t freeze, but it is possible to get 160 days of shelf life. As the temperature gradually increases, the shorter the shelf life. In order to make sure things are running smooth, the temperature has to measured and monitored on a regular basis.

“There are a number of brands of monitor – you need to fit them in and stick them into the USB port on your laptop or computer to get the data out,” said Jensen. “The industry routinely collects data. They put a data logger into a container when they ship product, and if there’s any doubt about the temperature control, they can download the data logger and have an argument with their shipper or their insurance company.

“If we can get the data from the data logger, then we can put the time and temperature data into the spreadsheet. We then electronically enter what the approximate initial number of bacteria are in that product, and we get a graph. The graph presents the temperature over time and we’ve interpreted that the product as packed, it’s been shipped to a port in Australia, it’s gone on a boat somewhere, and been transhipped onto another ship. We can see, for example, that a second vessel might not have had quite as good control – maybe they forgot to plug it in for a little while or something like that, and it eventually arrived at port and went into the importer’s warehouse. On the graph, a green line shows the base of remaining shelf life. For lamb, it starts at 90 days, and so by the time it’s unpacked at the destination, there’s about 60 days shelf life remaining. It’s possible then to add to that predictions of what happens in that particular market if you know about the temperature of that product.”

The shelf life of the product can be predicted if the temperature history is known. The University of Tasmania developed that model, the MLA validated it with products shipped around the world and around Australia, and its confident that the model is working well. How does the MLA use this model to the manage the shelf life?

“We’re currently working in this area and I won’t say that we’ve solved everything, but we’re making some good headway in real time monitoring and getting information that supply chains could use to manage products,” said Jensen. “We’ve got these data loggers that are able to send their data to the cloud. Some of them have quite long battery life, so we can put them into products that are going to the other end of the world, the batteries will continue to work and data will continue to be sent to the cloud throughout the shelf life of the product. Once the boat leaves Australia, it kind of goes into radio silence until it gets within an hour or two of arriving in its port, but then, once it goes into the warehouse and the container is unpacked, then we’re getting the data. Once it’s at the destination, it’s unpacked, it’s in a truck, it reaches a restaurant or is placed in a cold room of a supermarket, and then we’re pretty much getting the data in real time. And so we’ve been able to follow that through and that allows you to analyse the data pretty well immediately and to know what’s going on.”

He cites an example of a shipment that went from South Australia to Melbourne to Dubai that had data loggers on board. The loggers measured temperature, humidity and air pressure. Jensen carried one of the loggers around with him on an overseas trip and he knew exactly when he took off and when he landed because of the change in pressure in the plane. The devices also measure exposure to light, the motion and tipping of the box, and acceleration if a box is dropped. He said users can usually tell when the logger has been taken out of the carton because the temperature goes from 2˚C to 22˚C in half an hour. “We did this work on several shipments and got this real-time monitoring of international supply chains,” said Jensen. “The loggers worked in the Middle East, throughout Southeast Asia, China, Europe and North America. So, there don’t seem to be too many limitations on communication. You get precise information, including temperature differences in the container from one end to the other – we saw this consistently across a number of containers.”

The reason real-time data is critical is because of the difference it can make in not only in extending its shelf life, but whether it even makes it to the shelf at all. A few years ago, MLA used a data logger that used the shelf life model. They could see that for a period of time the product was off power and got up to about 18˚C and the shelf life disappeared precipitously.

“If you get this data in real time – on a boat we can’t quite get it in real time yet – then it does allow you to take some action and phone the captain and say ‘Could you send somebody down to plug that container in please?’ In our recent trial, product was unloaded at the customer warehouse and then shipped to a number of retail establishments,” said Jensen. “In one example, the temperature of the product was around 1.5˚C to 2˚C, another around 3˚C, and another was sitting up at around 7˚C. And so, that will make a significant difference to the shelf life of the product. “In summary, we’ve worked at knowing the shelf life and looking at the long shelf life of our vacuum packed products, predicting the shelf life using models that are fairly simple and then moving to being able to manage our shelf life in the cold chain. Hopefully, this will lead to increasing the supply of higher quality meat to the world.”

OzHarvest food app designed to help tackle hunger

OzHarvest is launching a new digital technology solution – the OzHarvest Food App – to tackle the hunger crisis and prevent food waste in regional communities.  The app is the first of its kind in Australia and is part of OzHarvest’s mission to address the national target to halve food waste by 2030 (in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.)

Australia produces enough food to feed everyone, yet over four million Australians experience food insecurity each year, with regional areas hit the hardest as food relief is increasingly hard to access[1].   Whilst OzHarvest is renowned for their bright yellow vans that rescue food in communities across Australia, the new Food App will focus on feeding those in locations where the vans cannot reach.

OzHarvest Founder and CEO, Ronni Kahn said innovation has to be part of the solution for halving food waste and addressing the ever-growing hunger crisis that effects so many families each year.

“I am staggered at how many people are still going hungry, whilst good food continually goes to waste. Within one community there can be a business throwing away perfectly edible food and just around the corner a charity is struggling to feed people in need.  The OzHarvest Food App will help local communities support each other by connecting the two on a regular basis and make a tangible difference to people’s lives,” said Ronni.

After a successful pilot with 70 Woolworths stores across the country, OzHarvest will be making the new app available to any business, small or large, to help grow their network of food donors across the country. It is expected to support an additional 600 charities by rescuing over 2,000 tonnes of food to provide an extra six million meals in the first year alone.

Sharon Crook, CEO of local charity The Gathering in Humpty Doo near Darwin said before using the app it was very difficult to source a regular supply of fresh food.

“Thanks to the OzHarvest Food App we are now able to deliver a range of fresh and healthy food to the local community, two more remote communities feeding over 30 families and the emergency accommodation in Humpty Doo.  We now collect fresh fruit and veg regularly from our local Woolworths, and we even get meat which was a luxury before. It’s made such a big difference to people’s lives and I’ve seen people getting back on their feet, some are even volunteering to give back, it’s sparked a real sense of community.”

Pastry producer keen to fight food waste with OzHarvest

The family behind Antoniou Fillo Pastry has recently joined OzHarvest’s #FightFoodWaste movement to help prevent food waste at home.

Christine Apostoles, marketing director of Antoniou Fillo Pastry and third generation of the family-owned business says the documentary about Ronni Kahn ‘Food Fighter: One Woman’s Crusade Against Waste’ inspired her to reach out to OzHarvest.

“I went to a screening of the film last year and was so inspired by the magnificent Ronni Kahn and the work she is doing to raise awareness of this desperate global issue,” said Apostoles. “So I approached OzHarvest to find out how we could contribute to making a difference.

“From March our customers will see the Fight Food Waste branding on our fillo pastry packaging in supermarket fridges,” she said. “And we’ll also be sharing tips and tricks to our email subscribers and on our social channels – sharing creative ways to use our products to make more sustainable decisions about food at home.”

OzHarvest welcomed the support of the great family-owned and run Australian company and their commitment to halve food waste by 2030 (which is in line with the national target).

“It’s excellent to see brands like Antoniou step up and take ownership of this growing global issue,” said Henrietta Ardlie, OzHarvest’s head of fundraising. “Educating consumers about the importance of stopping good food going to waste and providing creative solutions using their product is the perfect way to address this issue.  We hope that other food producers follow the great example Antoniou Fillo have set and join the #FightFoodWaste movement.”n.

The company is encouraging their community to share recipe inspiration using the #FightFoodWasteWithFillo hashtag. Later in the year, their product will appear in an episode of Everyday Gourmet with Justine Schofield cooking with OzHarvest’s executive chef Travis Harvey.