Refrigeration is essential for food security on the planet

It is necessary to conserve what is produced, eliminating losses.

The world population continues to grow: there are almost 8 billion people. to feed them, it is essential to reduce losses and waste that occur from the place of production to its arrival to the consumer.

The report “The Future of Food and Agriculture – Trends and Challenges”, produced in 2017 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), shows that there are almost 800 million people in the world who are hungry and another 2 billion suffer with nutrient deficiency.  Refrigeration can improve this situation because many foods produced spoil because of conservation problems.

According to FAO, every year about 670 million tons of food is lost or wasted in high-income countries and another 630 million tons in middle- and low-income countries. This represents a total of 1.3 billion tons of food produced and not consumed. 

The causes of this problem ranging from incorrect handling of the products at harvest to shortcomings in storage and transportation (which implies the precariousness or lack of refrigeration). In addition, there is a shortage of training for the workers involved, and little technology is used in all stages of the process from food production to sale to who will consume it (another aspect related to the need to use refrigeration).  

That is why, as early as 2015, FAO CEO José Graziano da Silva said that food systems need to be much more efficient, and included waste reduction as one of the goals to be achieved. 

 Refrigeration certainly has a lot to contribute to it.

José Graziano da Silva

“Greater efficiency in the world food system involves waste reduction”

Agribusiness expert Marcos Sawaya Jank has already said in an interview with the club, that conservation conditions are fundamental for certain foods, such as meat, to be consumed more. 

“In much of the world today, the main issue is not the amount of food produced, but the quality and sanity of the food,” he said, noting the importance of refrigeration in the transportation and storage stages.

These analyzes are confirmed by a 2009 study by the International Institute of Refrigeration (IIR), which showed that refrigeration plays a vital role in reducing post-harvest losses in the case of horticulture and post-slaughter in the case of animals. 

“No other processing technology combines the ability to extend product life and at the same time maintain its physical, chemical, nutritional and sensory properties,” the study says. In sequence, states that the wider use of refrigeration technologies would ensure better nutrition around the world in terms of quantity and quality. 


Another aspect highlighted by the IIR is the fact that the use of refrigeration significantly reduces the growth of bacteria in foods, which deteriorate, which is already negative, but also has a strong impact on health, often causing illness in those who eat .

After ensuring that current agricultural production would be more than sufficient to meet the needs of the entire world population, the Institute draws attention to the losses that occur between the field and the table, provoked by two main causes. 

The first is the distance between production areas (rural areas) and consumers, who are usually in the cities. It is necessary to store and then transport food properly, but this requires an infrastructure that often does not exist or is below the necessary conditions.

Study says, about the refrigeration:  no other processing technology combines the ability to extend product life and at the same time maintain its physical, chemical, nutritional and sensory properties

The second is the fact that certain products are seasonal, that is, they are only available at certain times of the year. This means that it is necessary to maintain inventories of them, requiring refrigerated storage – which, in many countries, is not available at the desired volume.

Experts estimate that, of all the food produced in the world, about a third need refrigeration to maintain integrity and be able to be consumed. This mainly involves:

• Meat in general (beef, pork, poultry, etc.));

• Fish and sea food;

• Dairy Products;

• Greens and vegetables;

• Some types of fruit;

However, a survey done just over 10 years ago showed that less than 25% of the food that should be kept under refrigeration received such care. Many of them were consumed quickly, but a considerable part was spoiled. 

The situation has improved over time, but it is far from good, especially in Africa and parts of Asia and Latin America. The problem is even more critical in hot regions where products deteriorate more quickly.

Complementing this IIR analysis, Marcos Sawaya Jank also points to the problem that, in some regions, there is not a reliable electricity supply network. Along with poverty, that causes, in some countries, less than half of households rely on a refrigerator.  In India, for example, this percentage does not reach 30% 

Since it is not possible to store perishable products at home, the population of these countries is forced to buy food daily in open markets, in which there is often no concern for hygiene, much less with maintaining them at suitable temperatures. That is, along with the problem of scarcity, there is also the consumption of food that can cause health damage. In addition, according to a study by Marcos Jank, certain products, such as meat, are consumed in less quantity in places where the population does not have domestic refrigeration.

Based on this diagnosis, the IIR makes some recommendations that would contribute to the reduction of hunger and malnutrition in the world. 

The main one coincides with what Jank proposes: establishing reliable cold chains for perishable foods in developing countries, which would increase the amount of food available by 15 percent.

In order for this cold chain to work effectively, the requirements are:

• Appropriate facilities for refrigerated storage at production sites;

• Refrigerated transport;

• Presence of refrigeration systems in the reception and distribution areas of products, as well as in retail;

• Some types of fruit;

It seems easy to fulfill these conditions, but it must be remembered that in some countries, which face extreme poverty or long-term conflicts, scarcity is not just financial resources. There are problems such as lack of equipment and trained personnel and, in some cases, there is still the impossibility of maintaining crops or raising animals. 

It is a major challenge, which requires the collaboration of international organizations such as the United Nations (UN). 

Opportunities that open

Two other factors must be taken into account when thinking about the need to reduce losses and waste as the best way to ensure food for everyone in the world:

• The steady increase in world population, which is expected to reach 8.6 billion by 2030 (1.1 billion more than today) and continue to grow to 9.8 billion by 2050;

• The limitation of the use of more natural resources to produce food, which could harm the environment and contribute even more to global warming.

From the point of view of sustainable development, therefore, the solution can not come from increased production. or the exploitation of more natural resources and the expansion of areas dedicated to agriculture and livestock. 

The way is to improve the processes currently used, using knowledge and technologies that already exist and that can be improved.  

In his book Brazil: The Country of waste , the researcher José Abrantes, the State University of Rio de Janeiro, calculates that around 80% of losses and waste of food occur in stages in which refrigeration would have much to contribute: storage, transport and retail. 

This situation opens up opportunities for all those working in the field of refrigeration.  The area of activity only tends to grow for the sale of products and services that contribute to better conserve food. This involves, for example:

• Manufacturers of refrigeration equipment and systems;

• Parts & Components Suppliers;

• Shops specializing in spare parts;

• Design and consulting firms of refrigeration systems; 

• Professionals who are dedicated to technical assistance.

Keep up-to-date with knowledge and keep abreast of opportunities!


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