A new study has found that raising the standard temperature of most frozen foods by just three degrees could cut 17.7 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.
The study was carried out by researchers from the International Institute of Refrigeration in Paris, France, and the UK Universities of Birmingham and London South Bank.
Most frozen food is transported and stored at -18°C, but the study found that a move to -15°C could result in annual carbon emissions savings equivalent to taking 3.8 million cars off the road.
According to researchers, the small change could create energy savings of around 25 terawatt-hours – equivalent to 8.6% of the UK’s annual energy consumption. Additionally, the move could cut costs in the supply chain by at least 5% and in some areas by up to 12%, the study finds.
The research was supported by global logistics firm 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.
Maha AlQattan, group chief sustainability offiver at DP World, said: “Frozen food standards have not been updated in almost a century. They are long overdue for revision”.
She added: “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”.
While freezing food extends shelf life, it comes at environmental cost as 2-3% more energy is required for every degree below zero that food is stored at. Experts also estimate that 12% of food produced annually is wasted due to a lack of refrigerated and frozen logistics, highlighting a need for greater capacity.
Demand is increasing for frozen food as appetites evolve in developing countries and consumers seek nutritious food at affordable prices. Freezing food can protect food sources and their nutritional value for months amid climate-driven events such as droughts, floods and heatwaves.
Toby Peters, a professor at University of Birmingham and Heriot-Watt University and director of the Centre for Sustainable Cooling, commented: “Cold chains are critical infrastructure, vital for a well-functioning society and economy. They underpin our access to safe and nutritious food and health, as well as our ability to spur economic growth”.
He added: “Cutting cold chain emissions and transforming how food is safely stored and moved today helps ensure we can keep sustainably feeding communities across the globe as populations and global temperatures rise, protecting food sources for years to come”.
Industry organisations to have already joined DP World’s coalition include AJC Group, Maersk, Daikin and the Global Cold Chain Alliance among others.
Earlier this month, Unilever announced that it had granted a free non-exclusive licence for 12 reformulation patents to the ice cream industry, enabling manufacturers to reformulate products that remain stable at a warmer freezer temperature of -12°C with an aim to pave the way for more energy-efficient freezer cabinets on a global scale.
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