Cutting Food Waste While Maintaining Food Safety

Food safety and food waste are both major concerns. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there are about 48 million cases of foodborne illness annually – the equivalent of sickening 1 in 6 Americans each year. And each year these illnesses result in an estimated 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. Food waste is also a major concern. Wasted food is a huge challenge to our natural resources, our environment, and our pocketbooks: Each year getting food to U.S. tables requires: 80% of our freshwater, 10% of our available energy, and 50% of our land. Organic waste, mostly food, is the second biggest component of landfills, and landfills are the third largest source of methane emissions. Methane is a major factor in global warming because it is so effective at absorbing the sun’s heat, which warms the atmosphere. And an estimated 30-40% of food in the United States goes uneaten – as much as 20 pounds of food per person per month! That means Americans are throwing out the equivalent of $165 billion in food each year.

Tips for reducing food waste while keeping food safe.

  1.  Understand food product dating! Except for infant formula, the federal government does not require dates on food products. That means that food product dates are almost always quality dates, not dates which indicate safety. If stored properly, a food product should be safe, wholesome and of good quality after its ‘Best if Used By’ date. More information on food product dating is available in English or En Español
  2. Learn how best to store perishables and how long they will keep safely! The FoodKeeper is a complete guide to how long food will keep in the pantry, the refrigerator, or the freezer. You can download the FoodKeeper App for Android or Apple devices. Or if you prefer, the Refrigerator & Freezer Storage Chart includes safe storage times for many widely-used foods.
  3. Avoid wasting food. Why not make one of your new year’s resolutions to work harder to avoid wasting food. Some ideas to consider: don’t buy more food that you can use; plan meals and shopping lists; become a mindful eater when eating out; check the temperature of your refrigerator or freezer (so food stays better longer), and more…..

A fact sheet which summarizes all this information is available in English or En Español. Stay food-safe, Barb