Raising frozen food temperature for decarbonisation

Friday, 01 December, 2023

Raising frozen food temperature for decarbonisation

Research has suggested that standard frozen food temperatures could be changed by just three degrees to save carbon dioxide emissions.

Most frozen food is transported and stored at -18°C, a standard which was set 93 years ago and has been maintained since. Moving to -15°C could make a significant environmental impact with no compromise on food safety or quality, according to the research.

Experts from the Paris-based International Institute of Refrigeration, the University of Birmingham and London South Bank University have found that the small change could:

  • save 17.7 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, the equivalent annual emissions of 3.8m cars;
  • create energy savings of around 25 terawatt-hours (TW/h) — equivalent to 8.63% of the UK's annual energy consumption;
  • cut costs in the supply chain by at least 5% and in some areas by up to 12%.

The research has been supported by global logistics firm and principal partner in COP28 DP World, which has set up an industry-wide coalition to explore the feasibility of this change, named ‘Join the Move to -15°C’.

The coalition aims to redefine frozen food temperature standards to cut greenhouse gases, lower supply chain costs and secure food resources for the world’s growing population.

Various organisations such as AJC Group, A.P. Moller – Maersk, Daikin, DP World, the Global Cold Chain Alliance, Kuehne + Nagel International, Lineage, Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) and Ocean Network Express (ONE) have already joined the coalition.

Maha AlQattan, DP World Group Chief Sustainability Officer, said, “The Move to -15°C will bring the industry together to explore new, greener standards to help decarbonise the sector on a global scale. Through this research, we can see how we can deploy accessible storage technologies in all markets to freeze food at sustainable temperatures, while reducing food scarcity for vulnerable and developed communities.”

Annually, hundreds of millions of tonnes of food are transported around the world. While freezing extends shelf life, it comes with significant environmental costs. The logistics industry is working to decarbonise, yet demand for frozen food is increasing as appetites evolve in developing countries and price-conscious consumers seek food that is more affordable.

Experts estimate that 12% of food produced annually is wasted due to lack of refrigerated and frozen logistics, highlighting a need for greater capacity. Studies also suggest that 1.3 billion tonnes of edible food is thrown away annually — a third of global food production for human consumption.

In other recent news, Unilever has successfully piloted ice cream at -12°C. It has granted a free non-exclusive licence to the ice-cream industry for 12 ice-cream reformulation patents, which will allow product to remain stable at -12°C.

Image credit: iStock.com/Lebazele

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