The Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Food and Drug Administration are working together to reduce food waste.
“Our nation’s agricultural abundance should be used to nourish those in need, not fill the trash,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a news release. “I look forward to what the future holds on this initiative and how we can work together to change the hearts and minds of Americans to reduce food waste.”
FDA Deputy Commissioner Frank Yiannas said in the release that the issue of food safety and food waste are connected, noting that research shows that there is consumer confusion over the meaning behind date labeling terminology on food packages.
“With more than one-third of all available food uneaten through waste or loss and 1 in 6 Americans suffering a foodborne illness each year, it’s clear that many people are unnecessarily discarding food in fear of food safety issues,” Yiannas said in the release.
The strategy includes six priorities:
- Improve interagency coordination;
- Ramp up consumer education and outreach;
- Step up guidance on food loss and waste measurement;
- Communicate information on food safety, food date labels, and food donations; and
- Work with industry to reduce waste. and
- Seek food waste reduction by federal agencies.
Fresh vegetable losses
The unveiling of the federal strategy came at the same time a report on food waste at the retail level was published.
In a USDA report issued April 9 called “Estimates of Food Loss at the Retail and Consumer Levels,” the agency said estimates of the average supermarket loss rate was 11.6% for 31 fresh vegetables, with the highest loss rate for turnip greens, followed by mustard greens, and escarole/endive.
The USDA said estimates of food store loss rates for fresh produce were developed by comparing data on pounds of shipments received with pounds purchased by consumers for 2,900 U.S. supermarkets in 2011–12. USDA-Economic
Research Service researchers applied these loss rates to 2016 quantities of fresh vegetables available for sale in retail stores to estimate retail level food loss.
“While the loss rates for potatoes, tomatoes, and romaine and leaf lettuce are lower than turnip and mustard greens, their sales volumes are higher, accounting for 35% of food store fresh vegetable sales,” according to the report.
The agency said supermarket loss for 31 fresh vegetables totaled 6.2 billion pounds per year in 2016, or 5 billion pounds per year after removing the weight of nonedible peels, stalks, and other parts.