Sealed Air (NYSE:SEE) Chief Executive Officer, William V. Hickey, addressed members of the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai on the issue of food safety and sustainability during a keynote speech on Monday, September 10, 2012. Hickey told attendees that as the global demand for food increases, there urgently needs to be a change of thinking and a sense of urgency to tackle the three most pressing issues facing the world’s food supply –– food safety, food waste and food access.
In his speech, Hickey said, “We are producing more than enough food to feed the planet, yet hundreds of millions of people are starving every day. We have made significant advances in technology and distribution, but food contamination is still a large societal problem with fatal consequences, regardless of wealth. And today we are more conscious of the impact our actions have on the environment, yet we throw away billions of tons of food a year that rots in landfills releasing methane gas into the atmosphere.”
Hickey included several statistics to highlight the growing issues of food safety, food waste and food access, including:
- World Health Organization estimates that foodborne and waterborne diarrheal diseases together kill about 2.2 million people annually, 1.9 million of whom are children.
- Nearly 40% of the food produced in the world is never eaten and its production consumes 300 million of barrels of oil per year. This food is responsible for one quarter of all freshwater consumption and represents $160 billion per year in cost.
- Nearly one billion among the world’s seven billion people are hungry, yet according to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, the world has never lived in a time when food has been in more abundance.
While recognizing the complexity of many of the issues he outlined, Hickey pointed out “that nearly every step in the food production and consumption chain affords the opportunity for business involvement and contribution. We must collectively bring all of our technologies and resources to bear so that everyone may eventually share in the freedom to feed themselves safely and adequately. And future generations can share in the preservation of our planet.”