Wasteful: Average American wastes 422g of food a day, study finds

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19 Apr 2018 --- New food waste research from the US unveils the shocking truths about the amount of food tossed out every day and it is people with healthier diets rich in fresh produce that are among the worst offenders. Fresh fruit and vegetables were the most likely to be thrown out, followed by dairy and then meat, according to the latest insights into the country’s food waste problems, carried out by US Department of Agriculture.

Because of their higher consumption of fruit and vegetables, people following a healthier diet are shown to be more wasteful as fresh produce – which requires less land to grow compared with other foods but more substantial amounts of pesticides and water – gets discarded often.

The study also looked at the environmental toll of food waste in the US. Households throw out approximately 150,000 tons of food each day which equates to around one-third of the daily calories consumed in the US.

The volume of discarded food is also equivalent to the yearly use of 30 million acres of land and rotting food releases methane, therefore contributing to greenhouse gases.

According to the research, US consumers wasted 422g of food per person per day from 2007–2014.

Fruits and vegetables and mixed fruit and vegetable dishes accounted for 39 percent of food waste, followed by dairy (17 percent), meat and mixed meat dishes (14 percent), and grains and grain mixed dishes (12 percent).

Remaining foods and dishes each accounted for less than 10 percent of total food waste: other foods and dishes (mostly candy, soft drinks and other beverages), salty snacks, soup, potatoes and mixed potato dishes, nuts and seeds, Mexican dishes, eggs and mixed egg dishes, and table oils and salad dressing.

Almost 26 percent of food was wasted by US consumers every day from 2007–2014.

Soup, fruits and vegetables and mixed dishes, and other foods and dishes had the highest waste rate, at approximately 30 percent each.

Nuts and seeds, potatoes and mixed potato dishes, and table oils and salad dressing had the lowest rates of food waste at 12–18 percent each.

More than 800 kcal (795–840 kcal) were wasted per person per day, representing about 29 percent of total daily energy intake and all nutrients, carotenoids had the greatest percent waste (31 percent) and vitamin D had the lowest percent waste (25 percent).

The research team analyzed eight years of food data up to 2014, examining the hotspots of where food is wasted, what type of food is wasted and what consumers say they do during mealtimes.

The subject of food waste has become increasingly important to the industry and consumers in recent years and FoodIngredientsFirst follows this issue very closely.

Last month we reported how the European Commission had released a study investigating the relationship between date marking on food labels and food waste in a bid to come up with actions the European Union can take to help mitigate food waste.

And at the start of 2018, the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation tipped food waste to be among the expected trends driving some of the primary food and nutrition trends in 2018.

Also in March, a new initiative called “United against food waste” was launched in the Netherlands. The originator is the Task Force Circular Economy in Food, which consists of a large number of companies, research institutes, civil society organizations and government bodies, including Wageningen University & Research. The task force aims to reduce food waste in the Netherlands by half in 2030 compared to the 2015 figure.

Conclusions
The research concludes that food waste is a critical component of environmental sustainability that, until now, has not been rigorously analyzed alongside diet quality. “The current results suggest that simultaneous efforts to improve diet quality and reduce food waste may be critical. Practically, increasing consumers’ knowledge about how to prepare and store fruits and vegetables will be an essential component to reducing food waste,” it says.

“Some important efforts have been proposed or are underway to reduce and repurpose food waste at the individual and institutional levels, yet further research is needed to better understand the comparative effectiveness of these efforts.”

“Additional research is also needed to better understand how reducing food waste can contribute to monetary savings at the household level, especially for those with limited food budgets.”
 
By Gaynor Selby
 
 

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