Research conducted by an international team of scientists unveils groundbreaking potential for reducing food loss and slashing carbon emissions. By adjusting frozen food storage and transportation temperatures from -18 degrees Celsius to -15 degrees Celsius, a transformation with the potential to cut carbon emissions by 17.7 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually has been discovered.
The findings, presented today, 29 November, in a report named ‘Three Degrees of Change’, underscores the remarkable impact of a mere 3°C adjustment in frozen food temperatures. This change could save the equivalent CO2 emissions of 3.8m cars each year, a reduction tantamount to the entire population of New York, New Hampshire, and Vermont collectively refraining from driving for a year. Moreover, it promises a cost reduction in the supply chain of at least 5% and, in some areas, up to 12%.
Led by the University of Birmingham, the International Institute of Refrigeration in Paris, and London South Bank University, among others, the research, supported by global logistics firm and principal partner in COP28, DP World, emerges as a timely solution in addressing food loss due to inadequate cooling in agri-food systems.
Toby Peters, professor of cold economy at the University of Birmingham, and Heriot-Watt University, who led the research and report said: “Globally, 12% of food produced annually for human consumption is lost due to a lack of proper temperature management. On top of this, an increasing global population raises the demand for food, while the rapidly warming planet will reduce food production. It is of the utmost importance that we find ways to combat food loss to achieve global equitable food security. Freezing food is one such method, but we need to achieve this as energy efficiently and sustainably as possible.”
The standard temperature of -18°C for frozen food, established almost a century ago, faces potential revision following these research revelations. DP World has spearheaded an industry-wide coalition, ‘Join the Move to -15°C’, aimed at exploring the feasibility of this transformation.
The coalition has gained significant momentum, attracting leading industry organisations including: AJC Group, A.P. Moller – Maersk, Daikin, Global Cold Chain Alliance, Kuehne + Nagel International, Lineage, Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), and Ocean Network Express (ONE).
Maha AlQattan, group chief sustainability officer at DP World, said: “Frozen food standards have not been updated [since the 1930s]. They are long overdue for revision.
“A small temperature increase could have huge benefits but – however committed each individual organisation is – the industry can only change what’s possible by working together.
“With this research and with our newly formed coalition, we aim to support collaboration across the industry to find viable ways to achieve the sector’s shared net-zero ambition by 2050.
“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.”