The British Frozen Food Federation (BFFF) is seeking to change the regulations to allow an increase in the temperature at which frozen food can be stored to save energy and reduce environmental impact within the sector.
Currently the regulations state that food must be stored at -18°C at least. However the BFFF is backing research to prove that -15°C would ensure safety and maintain food quality. It expects to achieve a change in the rules within five years.
BFFF president Stephen Waugh, who is also md of Ardo UK, announced the move last week at the BFFF’s annual lunch. He claimed that scientific evidence was needed to prove the BFFF’s case.
BFFF director general Brian Young has since reported that the issue would be raised over the next week or so at planned meetings with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and food minister Lord Rooker.
As government, public and retailer attention focuses on climate change, the frozen food sector is coming under increasing pressure to reduce its environmental impact. The BFFF is working closely with the Waste & Resources Action Programme, Envirowise and the Carbon Trust to raise the sector’s sustainability, said Waugh.
Waugh claimed that agreeing a higher temperature for storage would have “enormous” benefits in terms of reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions for the frozen food sector.
Microbial growth stops below -5°C, claimed the BFFF. However, to ensure quality is maintained, most food needs to be stored at between -10°C and -12°C, while for iced cream -15°C is required, it said. As a result the BFFF believes -15°C is the most appropriate temperature to use across the board.
Young said it was common practice for frozen foods to be stored at temperatures as low as -25°C to ensure it is always at least -18°C when delivered to customers and so not rejected.
In the short to medium term, the frozen supply chain needed to audit its existing procedures to assess the range of temperatures being used and then standardise equipment to avoid unnecessarily low temperatures, he said.
In the longer term, BFFF would be working with the academic institutions such as the Food Refrigeration and Process Engineering Research Centre at the University of Bristol, the National Physical Laboratory and researchers in Sweden to build evidence to change the regulations, he added.
In his annual report, Waugh stated: “We are determined to work with independent, objective bodies to develop meaningful and reliable data on the impacts of frozen food within the climate change debate. We are also working with appropriate bodies to help our members best use the resources available to address the sustainable issues.”
On a business level, the sector had witnessed improvements over the past year compared with recent years, said Waugh, with more premium products being launched, less hard discounting and better availability.
Despite tough trading condition over the past six months, the frozen food market was worth around £7bn with the retail sector now growing at 3.4% year-on-year, he claimed. The foodservice market had a value of around £2bn and was continuing to grow, he added.