Many Americans are unaware of their contributions to the worldwide food waste epidemic, according to a new survey by the International Food Information Council. While food is also wasted at the production and retail level, the USDA estimates that at the consumer level, the average family of four discards about $1,500 worth of food each year.
Although 47 percent of Americans report not consuming leftovers after having cooked at home, according to the IFIC survey, 30 percent of Americans claim that they “don’t create any food waste.”
“It’s highly unlikely that one-third of Americans play no role whatsoever in food waste,” said IFIC Foundation CEO Joseph Clayton. “We all need to be mindful of the ways we contribute to food waste and what we can do about it."
Nineteen percent of Americans claim that they contribute to food waste by forgetting about perishable food until it’s too late, according to the survey, and 17 percent buy too much fresh or perishable food.
The researchers noted that people who throw food away in these cases may in fact be wasting perfectly edible food items.
“In developed countries, consumers are often confused by the various product date labels such as ‘sell by,’ ‘use by,’ ‘best before,’ ‘expires on,’ and others, so they throw out food that is still safe to eat," Clayton said. "This presents an opportunity to help people understand what these labels mean.”
Eight percent of Americans also admit to cooking big meals and throwing out the leftovers, while seven percent aren’t cleaning their plates.
The majority of Americans also claim, however, that they are taking steps to reduce their contributions to waste; 58 percent report taking home leftovers from restaurants to consume later.
Some estimates show that up to half of all of the two billion tons of food produced on the planet is wasted today. Americans are responsible for approximately 133 billion pounds of this total, or nearly 300 kilograms per person per year, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
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