Adding to the impression that Americans waste food, a new study shows that people who live in the United States dump about 40% of the food they could eat safely. There are several rationales, but new research says that none of them is a good reason for the waste. The amount of trash people generate in general is only expected to rise — there are the world’s biggest producers of waste.
Researchers at Ohio State University looked at people’s refrigerators. Participants in the survey were asked what percentage of the food in their refrigerators they would eat. Nine in ten said they would finish the meat, but actually only half did. More, 94% of respondents, said they would eat the vegetables in their refrigerators, but only 44% did. While 71% said they would eat their fruit, actually only 40% did. In terms of dairy products, 84% said they would eat or drink them. That was against a real figure of 42%.
Brian Roe, the study’s senior author and a professor of agricultural, environmental and development economics at Ohio State University, said: “People eat a lot less of their refrigerated food than they expect to, and they’re likely throwing out perfectly good food because they misunderstand labels.” Just so there is no confusion, here are the foods that should and should not be kept in the fridge.
Roe and the study’s other authors reported that the reasons for throwing out food could be broken into very few categories. The first was the odor. People often do not know the difference in smell when it comes to deciding whether food is spoiled. The same held true for appearance. However, the general culprit is the dates on food manufacturer labels about when food is no longer best to be consumed. Roe commented, “No one knows what ‘use by’ and ‘best by’ labels mean and people think they are a safety indicator when they are generally a quality indicator.”
Who are the primary culprits among people who waste good food? People who clean out their refrigerators frequently were often the guilty parties. Two other groups were less likely to throw out good food. The first are those who check labels frequently. Roe’s theory about this group was that they might be “more engaged” with food dates and therefore less likely to waste food they buy. The other group less likely to throw out good food is people over 65. Roe’s message is that common sense should often override food labels.
Finally, the research reminded readers how serious food waste is worldwide. Data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations indicates 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted each year because it is lost or tossed. In America, at least, much of the waste is unnecessary.