Learning not to throw fish away: GFF experts on the food waste problem

Manufacturing solutions for the issues of food waste throughout the food supply chain down to the end consumer were discussed at the 2nd Global Fishery Forum.

The “Technologies: from production to consumer” round table concluded the Forum’s business programme.  Russian and foreign experts debated the problem of providing sufficient quantities of aquatic bioresource products for the growing population given the non-sustainable nature of the resource and the fact that principal consumption areas are far removed from the fishing areas.

Robert van Otterdijk, Officer at FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia, said that the UN Food and Agriculture Organization is actively studying the problem of food losses and food waste. Research shows that the world’s developed regions (Southeast Asia, North America, and Europe) waste more food than poor countries. “Those who can afford to waste food do so,” he noted.

Products are wasted at all stages of the supply chain from catch to sales to consumer, sometimes for economic reasons, sometimes due to negligence.

In the UN’s estimates, to provide the population with food in 2050, food production needs to be increased by 60%. However, if loss and waste cutting technologies are applied, production will have to be increased by 28% only. That requires developing communications between all members of the supply chain, making managerial decisions, improving legal framework, and developing technologies. ”It is important that proposed technologies be economically expedient and do not do more harm to the environment than the waste itself,” Robert van Otterdijk noted.

Yelena Kharenko, Deputy Director of VNIRO, said that in scientists’ estimate, of nearly 5 million tons of aquatic bioresources caught in Russia, about 1.7 million tons are not used. According to the information at her disposal, when fish are cleaned at sea, about 35% goes to waste, but it is easier to use it at sea for manufacturing fish meal. On land, there is less waste produced and fish meal is manufactured less frequently, but there are prospects for producing fish oil. At the same time, Russian scientists have conducted sufficiently comprehensive studies of the biochemical value of bioresources waste and worked through options for using it in the pharmaceutical industry. “Russian specialists have already developed an entire array of broad-range medicines to be used for preventing and treating various diseases and boosting immunity,” Yelena Kharenko noted.

Ansen Ward of FAO’s Fisheries Department spoke about FAO’s intent to combine all the existing information on the food waste problem and to develop a universal set of strategies for its solution. The project is planned to be implementing by launching a website storing the current database on manufacturing losses and waste and offering a service for calculating such losses and recommendations on cutting or avoiding them. “In the US, for instance, 1 million tons of imported products never reach the end consumer,” the speaker cited statistical data. “The situation is other regions is also difficult and troubling.” Ansen Ward called upon the audience to evaluate the website project and to submit proposals for its improvement so that next year, the final version incorporating those proposals could be presented.

Manuchar Kutateladze, Vice President of Х5 Retail Group, drew the audience’s attention to the fact that Russia’s legislation does not have a clear definition of biowaste. He said that today, expired food in retail chains can only be disposed of as hazardous products. Waste in fish products reaches 30% and is even higher in fruits and vegetable: 40–50%. “Instead of giving these products to charity or using them to manufacture other goods, even compost for agriculture, we give it to licensed enterprises to be disposed of, because our legislation does not give us any other option,” Manuchar Kutateladze said. He believes that the legal framework needs to be amended immediately.

The meeting’s attendees also discussed the possibilities of cutting production losses by using state-of-the-art refrigerating technologies, developing knowledge-intensive and environmentally-friendly production, improving fishing management and logistic chains, and solving other issues in delivering products to the end consumer.