Writtle research helps to reduce the environmental impact of the food chain

Writtle College research is helping to reduce the environmental impact of the food supply chain.

The College has been working with Reynolds, one of the UK’s leading fresh fruit and vegetable suppliers, on a toolkit to enable food companies to measure their suppliers in terms of their environmental impact.

The system – which is already being used – could have a huge impact on the sector at a time when environmental credentials and the traceability of the food chain are in the spotlight.

The research was carried out by Dr Chris Bishop, Reader in Post Harvest Technology, and Simon Jones, Researcher, at the College’s Post harvest Technology Unit, near Chelmsford, Essex, alongside a researcher from London Metropolitan University.

Dr Bishop said: “The food industry is a major user of resources in the UK, including energy and water. Research shows it is also a major contributor to carbon emissions, plus a significant source of waste, as well as being responsible for 25% of all heavy goods vehicles. Making the food chain more environmentally friendly could therefore have a major impact on the country’s energy use and the sustainability of the industry.

“This toolkit was developed to enable food companies to measure their suppliers in terms of environmental management. It was tested on six suppliers to Reynolds, a major fresh food company, and I am pleased to say that the company is already using this in its tendering process for suppliers.

“The research focused on key areas of best practice including the separation and recycling of waste streams, efforts to reduce the use of raw materials, energy, water, pesticides, herbicides and fertiliser, as well as ethical sourcing of goods.”

Ian Booth, Technical Director at Reynolds, said: “Understanding your food chain is now more important than ever. Determining the status of key environmental controls is both a responsible approach, but also a proactive method of identifying and mitigating those environmental factors which may affect supply”.

The research was published in the International Journal of Food Science and Technology.