More than 10 million tonnes of food processing waste are produced within the European Community every year. The costs associated with handling the waste produced within the food industry constitute many tens of millions of euros, attributable to landfill costs and other waste disposal routes. However, this waste is also known to contain significant amounts of valuable components which remain unexploited as a result of current food-waste processing practices. There are many kinds of potentially valuable components in these wastes: nutrients and micronutrients (protein, dietary fibre, prebiotics, antioxidants and other bioactive polyphenolics), rheologi-cal agents (hydrocolloids, gelling agents, films and coatings), texturised residues, flavours and colourants (juices) (Cheunk et al., 2003). These could be utilised in pharmaceutical, cosmetic and nutraceutical high-value products, as well as in contributing to medium-value food and feed ingredients. In the following we will focus on possible food products that can be reprocessed from food waste.
In the past, most of the waste of the food processing industry has been used as landfill, or has been fed to farm animals. Recent changes in the legislative framework, which have been enacted as a response to various food safety incidences such as the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) crisis, have forced the food industry to reconsider recycling practices. However, at the present time, increasing attention is being paid to the concept of sustainability. As a consequence, this issue is becoming increasingly important to the food industry and other food producers. In addition, the industry also recognises the need to respond to increased regulatory, end-user, non-governmental organisations (NGO) and (to some extent) consumer interest in the need to implement sustainable production systems. Of course, consumers are not just interested in sustainability but also in food safety, food quality and a number of other issues; for example, emotional responses to novel foods, which may arise as a consequence of food reprocessing. In this way consumer attitudes towards reprocessed food products have become a key driver to improve waste management in food processing.
In considering the issue of food-waste recycling as an integral part of the food chain, some key questions regarding consumer attitudes to resultant novel products need to be asked. These include, for example, questions about our understanding of how the public conceptualises sustainability, and whether this differs from expert views regarding sustainable food production practices. It is also important to understand how these beliefs and attitudes relate to the consumption of specific foods and food products. Individual and cross-cultural differences in the conceptualisation of, and attitudes towards, sustainable production processes must also be evaluated and incorporated into the assessment of the utility of emerging technologies and novel foods that may arise as a consequence of food-waste recycling. Research should identify the salient consumer beliefs regarding sustainable and, conversely, unsustainable products and product features, and the way in which people's values influence attitudes and opinions. At the present time, however, there has been little systematic empirical investigation of these various issues and questions. It may be possible to make some predictions of possible barriers to consumer acceptance, as well as reasons for consumer acceptance, regarding product commercialisation, by examination of the relevant literature on related topics.
In particular, due consideration of these issues should be made when considering recycling food waste into new food products developed for consumer purchase. Account should be taken of consumer acceptance of the different technological innovations applied during the production process, as well as consumer perceptions of the motives of producers in implementing these new technologies (for example, is there a dominant consumer attitude that industry is engaging in recycling practices in order to increase profitability, rather than to increase the sustainability of production processes?) and perceptions of risk. Previous risk events such as the BSE crisis may negatively predispose consumers towards recycling food wastes within the food chain, even if the recycled product is not destined for human consumption. During the BSE scare, consumer concern was underpinned by the recycling of animal waste into the human food chain in the form of animal feed. As a consequence there may be consumer concerns about the use of reprocessed waste in novel food production.
One might predict that effective commercialisation strategies will focus on regaining consumer confidence in food production in general, as well as communicating effectively and involving consumers in the broader debate about sustainable food production, and how this might be achieved and implemented.
This chapter aims to discuss some of the consumer issues relevant to sustainable production in general, and recycling food waste into the food chain in particular (either as animal feed or products for human consumption). Due account will be taken of factors driving consumer attitudes towards novel food products (for example, risk perception, perceptions of benefit and consumer trust in food producers and regulators with responsibility for consumer protection). Finally, the need for greater consumer involvement early in the process of food innovation will be discussed.
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