According to the World Health Organization an estimated 600 million people fall ill after eating contaminated food and 420,000 die every year. Foodborne illnesses are usually infectious or toxic in nature and caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances entering the body through contaminated food or water. Besides affecting human health, they impede socioeconomic development by straining health care systems, and harming national economies, tourism and trade.
Food safety is therefore imperative throughout the food chain, from harvesting, processing, handling, storage, and transport to wholesale and retail of food and beverages. Hygiene plays a crucial role in this long chain, leading regulatory authorities around the globe to impose ever more stringent requirements on food processing and packaging equipment. Owing to its many beneficial properties, stainless steel has been and will no doubt continue to be one of the most commonly used materials in food- and beverage-handling environments.
But this is not where the perfect marriage of stainless steel and our daily consumption ends. Astonishing amounts of food and water are wasted or even lost before ever reaching us, resulting in unacceptable and unsustainable wastage of natural resources. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that about a third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tonnes — gets lost or wasted. About a third of that total is due to waste, amounting to about 4 million tonnes of food annually, with a carbon footprint of about 1.1 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent. It accounts for agricultural water consumption of 80 km3 and needs about 0.5 billion hectares of land, or about 10% of the world’s agricultural land area, to grow it. What’s more, food waste disposal, by means of landfill or incineration, consumes fuel for transport, generates vehicle emissions and, in the case of landfills, produces methane emissions and taxes increasingly limited capacity. No less shocking is the amount of treated water wasted due to leaking distribution pipes. Wasting treated water naturally requires an equal volume of raw water to be retreated, with all the cost that process involves, in terms of money, man-hours, chemicals and energy.
Bio-digesters and distribution pipes are two examples of stainless steel applications which promise to revolutionise the way we think about food waste and water conservation. Two articles recently published in Stainless Steel World News detail their benefits and technical characteristics.
The full articles can be found on pages 6 & 7 of the June issue of Stainless Steel World News or accessed as PDF files via the links below.
A Stomach of (Stainless) Steel by Tim Outteridge, Secretary-General of IMOA
Saving Drinking Water by John Rowe, Secretary-General of ISSF