SANTA MONICA, Calif. – The National Resource Defense Council estimates that about 40% of all food in the United States goes uneaten; that’s about 20 pounds of food wasted per person each month.
“According to studies, the consumer is responsible for more than 44% of the food waste in this country as they buy more food than they need or can be used before the expiration date,” says Phil Lempert, editor in chief of The Food Journal. “Food companies and retailers must come together as an industry to educate consumers and determine how to minimize food waste including how to reduce the amount of waste going to landfills.”
Expiration labels are determined by the manufacturer, but at a retail level each store forms its own policy. There is no uniform or universally accepted system used for food dating in the United States. Although dating of some foods is required by more than 20 states, there are areas of the country where the food supply has some type of open date and other areas where almost no food is dated. According to Lempert, the question is whether consumers are willing to purchase such “expired” products at full or reduced prices.
Industry and government programs are under way to attack the problem as defined by the EPA’s Food Waste Recovery Hierarchy that includes first reducing the waste, then feeding people, animals, industrial uses, composting and Landfill/Incineration.