Reducing food waste and diseases with antimicrobials
Updated: May 27, 2022
Antimicrobial materials can significantly impact food security and sustainability in livestock management, food processing and packaging.
27th May 2022
1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted every year. That is 1/3 of the total annual global food production, spoiled. Microbes represent a major problem along the food chain, associated with livestock health, food-borne diseases and unnecessary amounts of food thrown away every year.
Disease control of livestock such as cattle or poultry is a decisive factor in maintaining resource efficiency for farmers. A common measure is the use of antibiotics, which are implemented as a prophylactic measure, aiming to prevent any infections from occurring in the first place. Unfortunately, fast-growing antibiotic resistance among superbugs is representing a growing problem. Cross-resistance is furthermore leading to antibiotic resistance against human medicine, fuelling the antibiotic resistance crisis.
Maintaining a high level of hygiene in processing plants is essential to the survival of any food processing company. An outbreak of salmonella, for example, can cost companies a fortune in lost resources and revenues as well as PR damage control. A study in the UK showed that F&B companies spend 11-20% of their annual income on cleaning. The food processing industry spends billions on the disinfection of machinery and food, to ensure the safety of the processed goods. This is also accompanied by long and costly machine down times, estimated at around 500 hours per year. Harmful microbes represent a major challenge in the efficient and safe operations within the food industry.
After processing, food products are packaged to ensure a safe delivery to distributors and, finally, the end-consumer. However, around 23 million people in Europe contract food-borne diseases every year. In the United States, that is around 48 million people. On the African continent, it exceeds 90 million people. And these are just the official numbers.
How can food spoilage and the resulting waste and diseases be limited?
An innovative, safe and cost-efficient solution to these problems is the implementation of antimicrobial materials. As part of a holistic hygiene concept, they act as independent environmental contamination controls, requiring no added maintenance effort.
Antimicrobial surfaces can significantly reduce the threat of diseases spread in farms and reduce contamination of machinery in processing plants.
As part of active packaging concepts, antimicrobial polymer films and wrappings extend shelf-life and expiration dates of products. They also reduce the risk of microbe contamination, further reducing the risk of food borne diseases and premature food spoilage.
Industry Europe. (2019, October 4). How the food industry can save time, money and resources on cleaning. https://industryeurope.com/how-the-food-industry-can-save-time-money-and-resources-on-cleaning/
World Health Organization. (2019, June 5). 23 million people falling ill from unsafe food each year in Europe is just the tip of the iceberg. https://www.euro.who.int/en/media-centre/sections/press-releases/2019/23-million-people-falling-ill-from-unsafe-food-each-year-in-europe-is-just-the-tip-of-the-iceberg#:%7E:text=Media%20centre-,23%20million%20people%20falling%20ill%20from%20unsafe%20food%20each%20year,the%20tip%20of%20the%20iceberg