Food Loss and Waste in Fish Value Chains
©FAO/Ansen Ward

A renaissance in canned fish consumption during COVID-19…is it good for food loss and waste?

Ansen Ward, 30 June 2020

Canned fish is consumed all over the world and is assumed to be associated with fairly low levels of food loss and waste. Fish is usually canned in small servings; thus, portion control is already factored in already. Waste associated with processing will more than likely have been dealt with at the canning stage, when trimmings and other by-products are converted into other products such as fish meal. Furthermore, canned fish is a very shelf-stable product and can remain in storage, without the need for temperature control, for long periods of time, thus loss and waste due to perishability is minimal. Assuming that the canning process has been done correctly, waste at consumer level should be low as canned products do not require further preparation and usually contain an amount of fish which can be easily consumed by an individual. Any leftover fish can be stored in a refrigerator or even frozen, minimizing the risk of waste further.

Canned fish such as sardines and mackerel are rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids and a range of vitamins and minerals. Canned fish is a good source of nutrients, important for health and supporting people's immune system. It is an option when fresh or other fish products are not available. So it is not surprising then that canned fish is one of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended foods for quarantine and self-isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In fact, several large producers of canned fish have seen sales increase as a result of consumers preparing for, or going through, COVID-19 lockdown. This could all bode well for the future demand for a product that is associated with minimal food loss and waste.

So due to COVID-19, consumers could be getting more of a taste for canned fish. One question is, are consumers switching away from other fish products to canned? And perhaps a more accurate comparison of food loss and waste viz-a-viz canned products and other fish products may be helpful and inform food loss and waste reduction strategies going forward.