$160 Billion in Food Wasted Every Year by America, but Is Too Busy to Stop

Even though American’s say that the wastage of 130 billion pounds of food (PDF) makes them feel bad, they however don’t do anything about it.

They are aware of the scale of this $160 billion (PDF) problem, said more than half the respondents in a new national survey. While 51 percent said it would be difficult to reduce household food waste, 80 percent of the respondent said they feel guilty when throwing food away. Surprisingly 42 percent said they don’t have enough time to worry about it.

Responses from wealthier Americans showed them less willing to be inconvenienced, found the study published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, said Dana Gunders, a food-waste expert at the National Resources Defense Council.

Gunders was the one who, in 2012, wrote the first major report about food waste.

“I’ve always thought it’s a bit of a luxury to waste food,” she said.

Brian Roe, a co-author of the study and a professor of agricultural marketing and policy at Ohio State University, which funded the study said that a troubling gap in awareness was exhibited when the survey found that less than 60 percent even understood that wasting food is bad for the environment. Ohio State University funded the study.

Methane, a major contributor to global warming, is produced by food that ends up in landfills and many aren’t aware of this fact.

“People haven’t quite made the link between food waste and the environmental consequences of food waste,” Roe said.

To share best practices for limiting food waste, the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency launched the U.S. Food Waste Challenge in 2013. The fact that wasted food is a major source of wasted money is believed by only 42 percent of the survey’s respondents. On the other hand bragging that they waste less food than similar households was made by 87 percent f the respondents.

Using a national sample of 500 people, the survey was administered by the research firm SSRS and was conducted last July. To ensure that the sample was representative of the American population in terms of age, gender, and race, the firm used weights.

Thinking it reduces the chance of foodborne illness, almost 70 percent threw items away after the package date expired, the study found out when it looked at why people waste food. 60 percent believes that to ensure that meals are fresh and flavorful, wasting food is necessary.

However previous research has shown that expiry dates are printed in an arbitrary and unregulated manner where the sellers gain if the date periods are smaller as the more food expires, the more one would buy. A bill to standardize such labels was introduced in May by Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, and Representative Chellie Pingree.

“When you step back and understand that those dates are not about the food safety, we can see that there’s a real opportunity for improvement,” Gunders said.

(Adapted from Bloomberg.com)

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