Food Waste represents about 40% of the total food production in the USA according to the NRDC, the Natural Resource Defense Council in a recent story carried by PBS News Hour and NPR’s Peter Lehner.
One way to reduce this waste at the retail and supermarket point of sale is to reduce the damage caused by light sources. In recent times it was hoped that LEDs would reduce this through eliminating UV but the main damage is still due to photo oxidation and thus even with LED lighting there is considerable food wasted at the point of sale, says Mark Granfar, president of Promolux Lighting International, a firm that has for over 30 years pioneered less damaging light sources for food display.
Over 50% of grocery sales in the USA are for perishables that are subject to shrinkage, discoloration, photo oxidation, and changes to the food’s taste and microbial content, making the food unsafe or unlikely to sell. This represents over $260 billion in grocery sales annually.
There is clear evidence from independent studies by the US government, FMI, universities, international agencies such as the FAO, and others that lighting has a damaging effect on the quality, safety, and shelf life of all perishable foods.
Radiation from the choice of lighting has been proven to have an effect on product surface temperatures, directly and exponentially accelerating microbial growth and leading to unsafe foods.
In tests conducted by Promolux, the return on investment for low radiation lighting in seafood departments can be a matter of weeks, while deli departments with packaged and processed meats can show a longer payback.
The choice of lighting has been proven to have an effect on surface temperature and radiation that can directly and exponentially accelerate microbial growth, leading to unsafe foods. The cost of such food borne illnesses in the USA represents between $5 and $6 billion a year (University of Kansas), not including insurance & liability costs and the reputation and good will equity of the supermarkets involved.
The cost to the industry varies from 3% for some categories to 15% in seafood department shrinkage in US supermarkets (FMI, 1987). Even a conservative average of 5% results in over $13 billion in shrinkage in those departments.
Other products such as beer, wines, and glass packaged foods, which appear to be non perishable, are clearly affected by exposure to lighting.