Simple steps to cutting food waste


19 December 2017
Technological advances in refrigeration equipment are enabling businesses to reap the benefits. Shaun Evers, Managing Director of Stonegate Instruments, explains how relatively small and simple devices can significantly cut down on food waste, and the associated costs.

In the UK, a staggering 4.1 million tonnes of food is wasted in the food and drink industry annually, largely due to the incorrect storage of perishable foods, according to the Waste and Resource Action Programme (WRAP).

It is important therefore that every supermarket, restaurant and food retailer has an effective refrigeration system in place, which correctly stores produce at optimum temperatures to ensure food is kept fresh and edible and high hospitality standards are upheld.
It can be difficult to accurately identify refrigeration problems. However, technological advancements have allowed of smart devices to be developed that make it easier. These technologies alert workers to refrigerator issues, ensuring ideal temperatures are maintained and, in turn, enabling outlets to reduce energy costs and waste.

Waste not, want not
No retailer wants to see food go to waste, however last year, food with a retail value of £13 billion was thrown away – contributing 19 million tonnes of CO2 emissions. 66 per cent of this waste was due to spoilage, caused by products being stored at incorrect temperatures.

One way to reduce the figure, is to ensure that optimum temperatures are maintained when storing perishable goods, ideally between 0 - 5C. Any fluctuation in temperature outside this range should be identified, which will allow problems to be solved quickly, before any excess spoilage occurs.

Not only can incorrect temperatures take a toll on food, but they can have a negative impact on energy costs. Overcooling by just 1C can lead to an increase in energy costs, up to 3 per cent, which can in turn significantly increase electricity bills.

Efficient thermometers, which are clearly displayed, can overcome the issue. Such equipment can monitor the cold store itself and the contents inside – making it easier to identify any irregularities. Businesses can reduce avoidable food waste and subsequently reduce unnecessary overheads from spoilage.

Harmful gas leaks 
As any refrigeration operator is probably well aware, refrigerant gases play a crucial role in refrigeration systems, keeping cold stores fully operational. 

However, if leaked the gases can be detrimental to a business causing staff to become ill, contributing towards global warming, and ultimately contaminating and destroying stored food products.

In an attempt to tackle the issue, legislation has been introduced in the form of Fluorinated Greenhouse Gas regulations. Under F-Gas regulations refrigeration systems with 300kg or more of refrigerants must be fitted with a gas leak detector. Devices should be calibrated with 1,000ppm mix of gas to air and have a sensitivity of 5g per year.  

Equipment, such as Stonegate’s DL 1024, detects a range of both toxic and non-toxic gases 24/7, alerting workers with an audio-visual alarm, should a gas leak occur. The technology ensures staff members can identify the problem, and timely repairs can be made – preventing additional waste and cost.

Put a stop to rotten food 
Although gas leaks are the biggest contributor to inconsistent temperatures in modern refrigeration systems, leaving the door open can be just as damaging. This may seem like a minor mistake but it can have an impact on the bottom line – soaring temperatures can cause an increase in levels of bacteria present, resulting in food spoiling much faster.

Furthermore, leaving the door open forces refrigeration systems to work harder, which in turn uses more energy, incurring higher energy costs.

The latest advancements in refrigeration equipment, can provide a simple solution. Open-door alarms can be mounted to the interior wall of a refrigerator, and can alert workers with flashing xenon beacon lights and 100dB sounders, should the door accidentally be left open for an extended period of time, ensuring the problem can be avoided.

Advancements in refrigeration technologies can make it faster for businesses to cut down on food waste, by increasing the efficiency of cold storage systems. With a payback period of less than two years, installing equipment like Stonegate’s gas leak detectors, thermometers and open-door alarms offers a simple solution for businesses across the entire food and drink sector.
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