The Food Chain Sustainability Special Interest Group website, at http://www.ifr.ac.uk/waste , is a joint initiative between the Institute of Food Research (IFR), the Resource Efficiency Knowledge Transfer Network and the Food Processing Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN).
It was set up to be a “one-stop-shop” for information covering issues including initiatives on waste minimisation, research on co-product exploitation, technologies for treatment of food waste, sources of funding, links to organisations working in the area and related legislation.
David Russell who is on the group’s board as a KTN representative, told FoodProductionDaily.com it was not about sustainability of supply and ensuring there was enough food for the world to eat. Instead it was about reduction of waste by utilising what is grown and processed more efficiently.
Russell said: “It will bring together all relevant information on the topic of food chain sustainability.
“At the moment this tends to be disseminated at conferences, in journals, through research institutions or websites like Defra. Someone looking for research has to go searching around.
“We want to bring it all together so it can be easily located and we are asking people to make contributions to it.
“There will also be a discussion forum to see what has been done, what is being done and if its not being done, to make comment thereupon.
“We are hoping it will grow to be an information flow both ways across the whole of the agri-food chain.
He added that some leading food manufacturers were already making the efficient use of resources part of their business philosophy.
Russell said: “It is economically attractive for food companies because it has become more expensive to dispose of waste and there is more benefit for companies to demonstrate the fact that they are socially and corporately aware.”
Benefits of a sustainable food chain
The organisation explains why it feels the sustainable food chain is necessary and states on the website: “Farming, the food industry, food retailers and consumers all contribute to the food chain’s impact in terms of energy use, water use, emission of greenhouse gases and waste generation.
“A truly sustainable food chain must both provide a robust mechanism to meet the world's need for food and avoid adverse environmental impacts.”
It was launched last week at the Total Food 2009 conference in Norwich but the idea for the website began with the evolution of IFR’s Co-Product Exploitation Cluster which forms part of the Food & Health Network.
The Cluster’s aim was to develop innovative methods for extracting marketable components and ingredients from food chain co-products.