Food is wasted along the entire value chain. According to the study, the main source of this waste is private households, accounting for 6.67 million metric tonnes. This corresponds to an annual average of 81.6 kg per citizen. 1.9 million metric tonnes of food waste are attributable to large-scale users, 1.85 million metric tonnes to industry and 0.55 million metric tonnes to the food retail trade. The reasons for this waste vary depending on the sector. In industry, which is responsible for 13 percent of food waste, produce is discarded, for instance, due to faults in the production process. The retail trade, for example, disposes of stock that has passed its sell-by date and of surplus stock resulting from fl uctuations in shopping behaviour, which is diffi cult to predict. Similarly, private consumers bin food primarily because it has passed its best-before date, but also because they undervalue foodstuffs, plan poorly and do not store it appropriately. In a Forsa survey, 84 percent of consumers interviewed cited expiry of the best-before date or spoilage as reasons for throwing food away.2
The natural way to preserve food
Widely recognised and used around the world, MAP enables food producers to meet retailer and consumer expectations for fresh, appetising produce with a long shelf-life. MAP often supplements other techniques such as high-pressure and microwave methods or oxygen absorption. The gases carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen (N2), oxygen (O2) and argon (Ar) are generally used in modifi ed atmospheres. Depending on the food in question, these gases are mixed in different ratios to retain the taste, structure and appearance of the packaged goods. In addition to tailored gas mixtures, the packaging fi lm also plays a key role in maintaining freshness. It serves as a barrier against water vapour, UV light and gases. Leaks as a result of a faulty seal or defective material, for instance, have a negative impact on quality and must be detected in production as early as possible. If the packaging is damaged, the food generally spoils before the best-before date, exposing the producer to the risk of complaints and damage to their image or even causing health hazards for end consumers.
Sampling versus inline testing
In leak testing, a distinction should generally be made between random sampling and integrated testing. Testing random samples to identify leaks is a low-cost method, but limited to individual packages instead of an entire batch. If a significant number of units are sampled, reasonably reliable conclusions can be drawn about the status of the batch overall.
Other methods, however, enable food producers to test each package in a batch for leaks. These are referred to as inline solutions and vary according to the underlying technology. Some methods are suited only to certain types of packaging so they may, for instance, be limited to rigid or flexible materials. Other applications test for leaks at batch level. These batch tests may be suitable for reasons of space, for instance. However, similar to sampling, batch testing can mean that an entire batch may have to be discarded or repackaged due to a single faulty package. The most cost-efficient and effective approach lies in a flexible leak detection system with the ability to test each package and identify individual faulty packages without compromising production throughput. This could ensure that leak testing does not become a bottleneck in the production line. The most common methods of sampling and inline testing methods are presented in the following.