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Waste is a significant problem in food supply chains. There is potential for spoilage of food products at any stage of the supply chain when the products reach their “best before” or “salable date”. As a key to the food waste problem, there is a trend towards developing shelf life extension solutions that are intended to allow products not only to last longer but also to improve their quality and nutritional benefits. The objective of this study is to explore whether shelf life extension actually results in the expected reductions of food waste. This issue is motivated by potential problems related to complexity in supply chains and consumer behavior. The study is based on a comprehensive literature review and empirical findings from several studies of the structure and functioning of food supply chains undertaken by a food research institute. This work concluded that the relation between shelf life extension and food waste reduction does not appear to be straightforward. Complex consumption behavior (e.g. shopping in larger volume results in longer storage periods at households), in combination with long supply chains and several storage points, implies that shelf life extension may not guarantee consumption before products have reached the “best before date”. Another important factor is the increasing demand for so-called “fresh products”, which may lead to the perception that products with longer shelf life are considered less fresh. This study has shown the need to more closely investigate the effects of various measures (such as shelf life extension) that are applied to reduce food waste. To that end, it would be beneficial to develop a method to investigate and monitor the effectiveness of proposed shelf life extension solutions for the purpose of food waste reduction with a holistic system perspective. This would also help policymakers in their decision-making process as well as solution providers to improve the effectiveness of such solutions. With this perspective in place, the effectiveness of such solutions could be improved. This would also help policymakers in their decision-making process.


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