The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) estimates that waste costs UK businesses in the food and drink supply chain £5 billion, annually. Much of this waste still ends up rotting in landfill, where it releases methane which has a damaging effect on the environment.
Surplus food stock occurs for a variety of reasons such as trial runs, over-ordering and out of date stock, overcooking, packaging defects or the wrong size or weight of goods produced. A proportion of the finished product can’t be placed on the market for human consumption and is unsuitable for charity food banks. It is often destined for landfill.
Many businesses are unaware of how significantly waste impacts their bottom line. With so many other issues to manage within a busy food production site or supermarket chain, getting this surplus food disposed of as waste may seem like the simplest choice, but results in a cost being levied to the business and environmental damage from landfill.
Former foodstuffs should be regarded as a resource, not a waste product. Diversion of food waste from disposal is becoming an increasing priority for government, which is promoting recycling and the development of markets for valuable products.
Many of these former foodstuffs, including bread, biscuits, breakfast cereal, crisps and confectionery have a very high nutritional value - being a source of high quality fats, sugar and carbohydrates.
After checking their feed safety, traceability and therefore suitability, they can be converted into high quality ingredients for use in animal feed, avoiding waste from food that is outside of specification for human consumption.
Anything designated for feed use will ultimately be re-entering the food chain, so strict adherence to regulations are essential. When former foodstuffs are used to produce animal feed, certain legal obligations are placed on the factory of production. By law the factory is deemed a ‘Feed Business Operator’ and has to be compliant under the Feed Hygiene Regulations EU 183/2005.
Hygiene standards are very important in the disposal of surplus foodstuffs. Products no longer intended for human consumption, which may be destined for farm animal feeding, must be kept separate during transport, storage and dispatch to and from a supermarket returns depot or food manufacturing plant.
Services should be fully accredited to the Feed Materials Assurance Scheme (FEMAS) standard ensuring that all feeds are fully traceable from source to supply, giving both quality controlled service and products.
Each food and drink production site has different challenges. The entire location and all production processes should be audited. Tailor made surplus food handling installations should be designed to suit each individual food factory site.
Critical control points for food safety must be implemented through Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) systems which prevent the mixture of any non-food waste and ensure feed materials are free from any chemical or microbiological impurities.
Where inedible products or products prohibited from inclusion in feed (such as meat or fish) are stored or handled on the same site as surplus foods intended for feed use, there must be physical separation between these products and the feed products.
This will ideally be full physical segregation of buildings and equipment. Detailed records of disposal of non-feed products must be maintained.
Sealed containers with surplus food must be collected and returned using specialist vehicles. All containers should be clearly marked to avoid any chance of confusion between surplus food materials and waste.
The surplus food is then transported to purpose built reprocessing centres where computer generated formulations manufacture a feed material to exact customer specifications, producing a range of bakery, biscuit and confectionery meals to suit feed compounders, blenders and home mixers.
Quality feed within the food chain
Animal feed plays an important part in the food chain and has implications for the composition and quality of the livestock products (milk, meat and eggs) consumed by people.
The Food Standards Agency is responsible for drawing up the rules on the composition and marketing of animal feed. The Agency's main aims in this area are to help protect consumer and animal health. Another aim is to ensure that those buying the feed are provided with sufficient information to allow them to make informed choices.
Our focus is to safely and efficiently recover as much surplus food as we can and to do so inside a legislative framework that protects animals as well as the human food chain.
By recognising that former foodstuff not suitable for human consumption is a resource and not a waste product, our industry is reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill every year, saving costs, and lessening environmental damage.
Paul Featherstone is group director at SugaRich, which formulates feeds for livestock from former feedstuffs.
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