Explainer: Transforming food waste

Explainer: Transforming food waste

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Every year around a third of food produced
for human consumption is never eaten. That’s around 1.3 billion tonness of food
that is wasted. Some of that is rubbish thrown away by consumers. But a lot of it is lost during the supply
chain from production, harvesting, processing and trade. Research is breathing new life into these
leftovers and using them to make people healthier. From the leaves of cherry tomato plants to
fish heads, a lot of food waste is rich in nutrients that are vital for people’s wellbeing
and can be used in our diet. For example, 45 million tonnes of oranges
are grown every year. But up to 40% are discarded during the production
of citrus juice – mostly ending up in landfills or as animal feed or compost. Research has shown that oranges are a complete
package of every natural cancer inhibitor. That’s because oranges contain phytonutrients
– chemicals that help protect plants from insects, germs, and other threats. Phytonutrients can also protect humans. The oil in orange peel contains a chemical
compound called limonene which has the potential to stop cancer before
it begins. We recently found that orange peel extract can keep prostate cancer cells dormant. In the future it might be possible to use these after chemotherapy to keep cancer in remission and reduce risks of recurrence. Now, we’re working with industry partners to develop an affordable food product from orange peel waste that could even reduce cancer’s mortality rate. Another project we’re working on will see malformed mushrooms transformed into a healthy sports drink. Up to 80 percent of mushrooms are rejected each year because they are ugly and unsellable. But they could be blended into a drink that would be rich in protein, and lower in sugar and salt than other sports drinks on the market. With so many valuable resources ending up in the bin, it’s projects like these that use waste in a meaningful way.

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