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Every year, five billion euros worth of #food is wasted in the Netherlands.
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Food Food General

Every year, five billion euros worth of food is wasted. Slowd wants to prevent the throw away of fruit and vegetables.

they are not new, the grains of Slowd. In agriculture, they have been used for years to slow down the ripening process of fruit and vegetables, so that it does not spoil along the way. Slowd brings this technique on the market for consumers.

The idea is simple. Ethene is released during ripening of fruit and vegetables, which can be catalysing. If you put a banana between some hard pears, they ripen faster. Ripe mangos are often picked unripe and 'ripened' in the Netherlands with ethylene. The grains of Slowd work as an inverted banana. They have a coating that allows ethylene to oxidize. The open structure of the grains (similar to a honeycomb) gives them a large surface area, so that they 'capture' a lot of ethylene. The grains are in a bag that lets air through, but hardly any water, explains Koen Verhagen from Slowd. So you can put them both on the fruit plate and in the fridge.

Everything together

The grains would make fruit and vegetables 2.5 times longer preservable, a figure that, according to Verhagen, is based on research in the transport sector. This is not entirely comparable with the situation in a household, he admits. Containers are full of one type, in fridges or on fruit trays everything is mixed up.
Moreover, Slowd does not work equally well with all types of fruit and vegetables. Apples, kiwis, apricots, nectarines, broccoli, lettuce, pears, tomatoes and cut flowers are relatively sensitive to ethylene. Asparagus, aubergines, lemons, cherries, oranges, onions, garlic and potatoes remain good for much longer.
Food #waste
The five billion euros that is wasted every year on food comes from a study that research agency GfK did in 2015 on behalf of Rabobank. Researchers from Wageningen University came to 4.4 billion euros in a comparable study last year. Half of this waste occurs in the production and distribution chain, for example during transport and due to beauty requirements in the supermarket. These are the vegetables and fruit that do not even reach the shelf. The other half comes from the consumer, Verhagen says. People most often throw away bread and milk, followed by fruit and vegetables.

Tom van Dijkman graduated in 2016 at Leiden University on the development of sensors to measure ethylene in food containers. He thinks that the grains of Slowd can indeed slow down the ripening process by a factor of 2.5, although this will depend strongly on the type of fruit or vegetables. The active ingredient of the granules is potassium permanganate, the same substance used in the transport of food and flowers. This reacts with ethylene and forms carbon dioxide, water and manganese dioxide.
Bunch of flowers hold by hand

Honeycomb structure

To make this chemical reaction possible, a large surface area is required, which according to Van Dijkman explains the honeycomb structure of the granules. It is also important that ethylene can spread well through space, he says. "Ethylene can do that well, but if the vegetable is in a plastic bag, for example, that will not help."
Toine Timmermans, program manager sustainable food chains at Wageningen University, is skeptical about Slowd. He has seen several comparable products in recent years, of which he has tested a number. "Usually the conclusion is that these products work technically, they absorb ethylene, but the impact on quality is often negligible."
Ernst Woltering, professor of product physiology and quality at the same university, is even more critical. "This will have no impact on product quality in the refrigerator. It is questionable whether there is ethylene in the fridge, because it opens about twenty times a day. There is no evidence that it is useful under these conditions. I would not spend any money on it. "
Wolterings colleague Marcel Zwietering, professor of food microbiology, emphasizes that in the decay of food not only product physiology plays a role (the ripening process that slows Slowd), but also, for example, dehydration, moldy, bacterial growth, browning and fat oxidation. In the case of bacterial decay, the longer storage of food can even entail a risk, if there are any pathogenic organisms.

Effectiveness

Zwietering wonders whether ethylene flare in an open space can be effective. "Ethene is often used in storage containers, where many products of the same type are in a small space. When food is stored outside the refrigerator, the ethylene evaporates, so the granules are probably not as effective. "

Patricia Schutte of the Nutrition Center joins this. "There are examples of smart packaging that capture ethylene and thus extend the shelf life. The advantage of this is that the environment is closed, in contrast to a fruit bowl. "

The 2.5 billion euros of food waste that is borne by consumers is in line with the calculations of the Milieu Centraal educational organization, says Kirsten Palland. She charges 40 kilos of food waste per person per year, which amounts to 145 euros per person per year by disposing of solid food and dairy.

Legion tips

The tips to avoid food waste are countless, says Palland. "Shop for example with a shopping list and buy fresh products more than once a week. Put perishable goods in the front of the refrigerator, make leftovers and put items back in the refrigerator as soon as possible after use. Measuring cups or weighing scales can help to cook to size, so that less is being struck."
Van Dijkman thinks that there is at least as much to be gained from the waste in supply routes. "Maybe it helps to eat as much locally produced food as possible in the season, so the supply routes are short."
Slowd advertisement

By: Robin van Wechem, Trouw Newspaper

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