Food Security Tips from a Packaging Pro

August 11, 2015

Takeaways

As an expert in packaging, Sealed Air explains how companies can innovate to increase food security.

[Editor's Note: Ron Cotterman, Vice President, Sustainability, Sealed Air, will be speaking at our pre-conference roundtable Global Food Security: Bringing it Home for U.S. Consumers, on October 5. Registration is free and open to the public; please sign up to attend and learn more about Sealed Air's commitment to increasing food security around the world.]

Addressing global food security is one of our society’s most pressing challenges as we work to ensure global communities have access to safe, nutritious food while minimizing waste and environmental impacts. As part of our vision to create a better way for life, we are working at Sealed Air to develop and implement innovations to address food security challenges. Awareness of these challenges has increased dramatically in recent years as a result of significant media attention following a multitude of new research studies revealing startling trends:  

  • Access: Increasing population and consumption will require at least 50% more food by 2030, which must increasingly be distributed from all over the world.
  • Safety: Increasing urbanization is expected to increase foodborne and waterborne diarrheal diseases, which kill about 2.2 million people annually.
  • Waste: At least 40%, or nearly 1.3 billion tons each year, of the food we produce is never consumed, and this is increasing on a global basis. 

Challenges Become Opportunities

We are at a crossroads for balancing sustainable business, caring for the environment, and feeding the world’s people adequately and safely. Dire statistics are a call to action to work together to implement and scale best practices and innovative solutions. Challenges become sources of opportunity and provide a sense of purpose. Sealed Air and other leading companies are now including food security in their corporate sustainability goals, and are partnering with both governmental and non-governmental organizations to drive collective action. 
 
What Can Be Done? What Actions and Initiatives Can Companies Take to Address Food Insecurity? 

To begin with, it is important to understand the underlying causes of, and match solutions to, the greatest needs. There are vast differences between developed and developing countries. Developing countries lack the infrastructure to adequately distribute, preserve, and store food. In developed countries, many of our challenges are associated with consumer buying and consumption behaviors. 

Innovations for Developing Countries 

We are working to apply many of the same solutions that have been implemented in developed countries to developing countries to increase efficiency and safety, reduce spoilage, and decrease the cost of food: 
  • Keep it cold, keep it safe. Establishing and maintaining a cold chain is essential for preventing the premature spoilage of perishable foods. Refrigerated warehouses, processing facilities, and transportation are essential infrastructure requirements to reduce spoilage of produce, dairy, and meats.
  • Combat spoilage at the start. Controlling the growth of harmful bacteria is essential to ensure food quality as well as prevent the spread of foodborne illnesses. Use of sanitizers, maintaining clean surfaces, and food safety monitoring are critical during food processing. 
  • Seal in freshness. Packaging plays an essential role in protecting perishable food products during distribution while also reducing potential for cross-contamination during storage. By using sealed, hermetic packaging, food quality can be maintained and waste prevented.

Innovations for Developed Countries

We are introducing a number of innovations to developed markets—where consumer behaviors lead to increased food insecurity—to address food safety, waste, and availability:
  • Size for what is needed. Simply matching how food is made available to households, in proper quantities, can help reduce over-purchasing and make food more accessible, particularly for increasingly smaller households. Buying food in portions or in prepared meals reduces waste and can help foods stay fresh until opened. 
  • Extend freshness life. Through use of packaging technologies such as modified atmosphere packaging, the freshness and safety of many perishable foods such as meats, produce, and bakery items can be significantly extended without the use of preservatives or additives. Giving consumers more time to consume perishable products helps reduce in-home food waste. 
  • Make food systems smarter. Expanding use of information technology in our daily lives can help manage how we purchase, store, and consume food. Knowledge-enabled solutions based on use of smart devices, sensors, and analytics will overcome issues such as food date labeling, inventory management, and storage conditions, leading to a safer, more efficient food chain.

By addressing the causes of food insecurity and working collaboratively to apply and scale innovations, we will be able to feed the world nutritiously, safely, and sustainably while minimizing environmental, social, and economic impacts. At Sealed Air, we call this “creating a better way for life."

[Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in Achieving Food Security: Private Sector Leading the Way Toward a Food-Secure Future]