Supermarkets can cut food waste by an estimated 300,000 tonnes by switching to LED lights.
When it comes to lighting a home or an office it’s a fact that LED technology outshines the competition. For business, making the switch to LEDs has a simple, money-saving advantage – with the added bonus of reducing your carbon footprint – it’s just a matter of efficiency. But new research suggests there may be other huge benefits to using LEDs in the preservation of food. By simply replacing traditional lights with LEDs food can be kept fresher for longer.
But how would LEDs keep food fresh for longer? Well, it makes sense once you start to think about it: Illuminating food produce with traditional bulbs is the problem, because conventional lights need to emit a lot of heat to glow. The heat that incandescent and fluorescent lights emit causes a rise in temperature within the food storage environment – and we all know how quickly warm milk goes bad. It causes food to ‘sweat’ in its packaging, triggering premature deterioration and loss of its “fresh” look. Because of their efficiency, LED light sources do not produce this large amount of waste heat. This means that by using LED lighting in supermarkets food can now be placed in close vicinity to lights, and get an enhanced aesthetic appeal with no danger of premature food deterioration.
Now a few wilting vegetables on the shelf may seem like small potatoes at first, but it quickly scales up. Approximately 8 to 10 billion dollars of food was wasted each year in Australia between 2007 and 2013 in commercial and residential waste – the equivalent of four million tonnes of food. Let’s take a moment to consider this; that is enough material to cover the Sydney Harbour, the Sydney Opera house and Uluru three times over with material to spare.
The food industry is heavily regulated, everyday businesses have to throw away food that is showing signs of aging. A viable solution can be found by replacing old lighting technologies with LED’s according to new research by British scientists. One of the contributors to food deterioration is the electromagnetic bi-products created from lighting. Most problems are caused by the ultraviolet ranges, leading to changes in flavour, nutrient composition and colour when exposed to such radiation. Not only are LED’s a cost effective alternative to lighting, they also do not emit strong UV or IR rays. Hence, our food will stay fresher – and tastier – for longer with LED lighting.
Furthermore, supermarkets are experiencing a marked increase in sales when they install LED’s in food display areas. LED lights contain a high Colour Rendering Index (CRI), which means objects within LED lit areas appear more natural in colour. For example, under conventional lighting a tomato may appear orange in colour due to the low CRI of the lights. By comparison, the same tomato under LED lighting would appear a full, eye-catching red colour – increasing the appeal and allusion of freshness to the customer.
Another benefit to LED lighting may come as a bit of a surprise – keeping bugs away. Traditional lights attracting insects is a problem which has plagued many Australian Summers, but what lures the insects in, you ask? Once again, it’s the UV radiation. A lack of UV radiation means there is less chance to lure pesky insects, making LEDs popular in commercial food-service applications and exterior installations. This ensures a better experience for everyone, not to mention cleaner and more enjoyable shopping experiences for customers.
Virtually all foods are exposed to light from artificial and natural sources during the packaging, shipping, storing and marketing processes. But not all types of natural or artificial light are equally absorbed or equally destructive. Now, as more research is conducted and more discoveries are made solutions to food waste seem possible. However, we can make a difference right now by using the many government subsidies available to make the switch to LED lighting. It will mean reduced maintenance costs, money saved on energy bills, cutting down food waste and an increase in the shelf-life of food in storage. Between reduced costs and increased sales, the switch to LEDs keeps the future of our food industries looking bright.