Every year on June 5th, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) celebrates World Environment Day, part of a larger effort to encourage global action on issues related to environmental concerns. World Environment Day was established by the U.N. General Assembly in 1972 and first celebrated the following year.
In keeping with the theme of this year's celebration of World Environment Day - "Think.Eat.Save." - the UNEP, in conjunction with the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), is encouraging groups and individuals around the world to take steps to reduce the effects of food loss and food waste, which totals more than 1.3 billion pounds of food per year worldwide. Standards developed by members of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Federation provide important assistance in reducing and effectively managing food-related waste.
Food spoilage contributes significantly to food waste in countries around the world, with exposure to mold spores, microorganisms, and other contaminants transforming much-needed food into something inedible. ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 72-2005, Method of Testing Commercial Refrigerators and Freezers, can help to reduce spoilage by providing a uniform test method for open and closed commercial freezers and refrigerators, allowing for evaluations of temperature performance, refrigeration load, energy consumption and other important metrics. The standard was developed by ANSI member and audited designator ASHRAE.
Two standards from ANSI member and audited designator ASTM International help to address spoilage concerns by providing guidelines for the use of irradiation in connection with different food products. ASTM F1736-09, Standard Guide for Irradiation of Finfish and Aquatic Invertebrates Used as Food to Control Pathogens and Spoilage Microorganisms, sets down procedures and operations for the safe irradiation of chilled or frozen fish and aquatic invertebrates, including bivalve shellfish and crustaceans, for the purposes of reducing spoilage and minimizing pathogens. Another standard, ASTM F1885-04(2010), Standard Guide for Irradiation of Dried Spices, Herbs, and Vegetable Seasonings to Control Pathogens and Other Microorganisms, sets down procedures for the irradiation of dried herbs, spices, and other related seasonings for the purposes of controlling pathogens and other microorganisms, including those than can cause spoilage.
Spoilage isn't the only factor causing food-related waste - the loss of crops to pests and climate issues prior to harvesting, the removal of edible material from processed foods, and the throwing away of uneaten food at restaurants, cafeterias and private homes also contribute to this sort of waste. Relatedly, because so much of the world's food is consumed in restaurants or eaten at home out of takeout containers, these containers themselves have become a significant source of waste. ISO 18606:2013, Packaging and the environment - Organic recycling, specifies requirements and procedures for the organic recycling of packaging material. The International Standard, which covers only packaging considered recoverable by organic recycling, was developed by International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Technical Committee (TC) 122, Packaging, Subcommittee (SC) 4, Packaging and environment. ANSI member and accredited standards developer the Material Handling Industry of America (MHIA) serves as the ANSI approved U.S. Technical Advisory Group (TAG) Administrator to both ISO TC 122 and SC 4.
While reducing food-related waste is a big job and requires ongoing work and commitments from governments, companies, nonprofit organizations, and individuals around the globe, voluntary consensus standards serve as valuable tools to advance that effort.
For more information about World Environment Day, visit the official web site.