Friday, June 27, 2014

Do You Think Food Waste in the US Has Gotten Out of Control? Recent Statistics Point to "Yes!"

Disclosure:  I will be compensated for my time in sharing more about with you over the course of the next few months.  However, all views I share will be mine and mine alone.

"Real breakthroughs are being made in areas like sustainability, food safety, nutrition and agriculture. And FutureFood 2050—through this website and other media, and in an upcoming film—will keep you connected."

While I love being a stay-at-home mom, there are days that I wake up and miss being a health educator.  I used to love going into schools and teaching children of all ages about different health topics and preventative measures, in addition to going into the workplace and putting on a health fair and screenings and employees.  Public health has always been a passion of mine, and one that really did come in handy when I was diagnosed with cancer in 2008.  I knew the questions to ask questions, reputable places online to seek out patient education, etc.  You really do have to be a savvy patient advocate not only for yourself, but also for your family.  And, because of this, I make a point to stay up-to-date on new health findings, continually pick up and read medical journals and magazines, and seek out medical interviews from those in the health fields.  

Recently, I was asked to become a science correspondent for Institute of Food Technologists (IFT).  I have to say, that prior to learning about this opportunity for bloggers, I had never heard about IFT before.  But, after visiting their website and reading articles and interviews from food scientists, technologists and others in the health field, I made a point to bookmark this site, and visit it daily.

The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), for those who are not familiar with it, is "dedicated to advancing the science of food since 1939. Our non-profit scientific society—with more than 18,000 members from more than 100 countries—brings together food scientists, technologists and related professionals from academia, government and industry."

And, this past spring, IFT launched "FutureFood 2050 —a multi-year program highlighting the people and stories leading the efforts for a healthier, safer and better nourished planet that’s needed to feed 9 billion+ people by 2050.  

Right now, they are continually rolling out interviews with the world’s most impactful leaders in food and science, in anticipation for next year's documentary film, FutureFood 2050.  Part of being a IFC science correspondent is to check in over the course of the next few months and read through new interviews and articles posted.  In addition to sharing my thoughts directly on the IFT site, I will also be sharing these eye-catching pieces with you through my blog and social media channels.  

Want to follow along and learn about think like - "why 40% of the food in the U.S. is never eaten, how flies are aiding in nutrient recycling, what’s new in meat alternatives, why the world’s girls are the missing link in global food aid programs, how 3D food printing works in space, what it will take to feed the mega-cities of tomorrow, and more."  Then, sign up at, and follow the stories and connect science to the conversation on how to feed the planet.  

Of the articles and interviews I have read to date, the series that has caught my eye is that on food waste.

Current Series: Food Waste

"Food waste is an issue that virtually all food experts can agree on, regardless of their ideology or background. Simply put, there is just too much food waste (2.6 trillion pounds globally)—a devastating irony as the world struggles to feed 9+ billion people by 2050."
"This month’s FutureFood 2050 interviews aim to shed new light on the global epidemic of food waste. Instead of dwelling on the problem, our four interviews are completely focused on solutions. Their stories spotlight creative, unexpected ways that scientists and entrepreneurs alike are tackling this complex issue.

The four food waste trailblazers profiled for FutureFood 2050 this month include:

  • Doug Rauch: The former president of Trader Joe’s has turned one of the most fundamental (and wasteful) principles of retail—always in-stock, cosmetically desirable food—on its head by selling imperfect and past-its-labeled-prime food in a grand supermarket experiment.
  • Elsje Pieterse: A South African scientist is “farming” a renewable and completely unexpected resource, fly larvae, as a virtually no-waste source of animal feed.
  • Tristram Stuart: One of the world’s leading food waste activists advocates a multi-pronged approach to addressing the issue, which includes everything from changing the ways that companies feed pigs to digging in supermarket dumpsters for still-edible food.
  • John Floros: A leading academic at Kansas State University has launched a new international food waste innovation center that invests in solutions spanning small village fields to mega-city tables.

Food waste is one topic that I continually share with family and friends, and bring up in conversation.  Just check out this infographic shared on the website, and you, too, will be astonished at how much food we actually waste.

Can you believe that "31% of all food produced for the store or home was wasted in the United States alone in 2010.  This equals 133 billion pounds of food, with an estimated retail value of $161.6 billion." Truly startling, right?  I had to do a double take the first time I read through this infographic.  But, then as I sat at my computer and thought about food waste further in the US, I could see these numbers and statistics sadly making sense.

I know that you are probably sitting there thinking about how much food your family wastes each week.  Personally, I find myself throwing out food, as I forget I have bought it and it gets pushed to the back of the fridge.  I only stumble upon it when looking for something.  Or, I buy fresh fruits and vegetables at the market, only to find them spoiling before we get a chance to eat them.  I really do feel bad when I have to throw out full packages of things, as I hate to waste food, but, that I also know that our family's hard earned money went to purchasing it, and we are simply throwing it out due its expiration date.

Do the "sell by date," "use by date," and "best by date" on packages confuse you?  I have seen different television segments about how you can eat food way beyond its suggested expiration date, depending on the food and how it is packaged.  But, I have oftentimes wondered how safe it is. And, with little ones in the house, the last thing I want to do is jeopardize their health, while trying to stretch the expiration date on food, so that it doesn't go to waste.

Besides the startling food waste statistics, the call-to-action notes at the bottom of the infographic really caught my eye.  Yes, it is one thing to bring the problem of food waste to the forefront, but what are people doing to fix this worldwide problem (yes, other countries are also wasting food, too).  We all know that collaborating and working together to develop a solution is key in fixing problems in any situation or workplace.  And, by getting food manufacturers, retailers, government officials, consumers, and other stakeholders together to talk about ways to fix this problem is the first step in reducing the food waste stats for the future.  

I also agree that more needs to be done to clarify and make consistent the date-marking system on packages.  I also like the idea of on-package storage instructions, to help consumers better store the food they buy at the market, to keep it fresher longer.

More research needs to be done not only to evaluate and further develop indicator technologies, and it has to be shared with consumers in an easy to under format, like the above infographic.  While we know we are wasting food each week when it comes to cleaning out the refrigerator for the trash, we also need to be educated on ways to improve and cut our food waste, as well as learn about the overall food quality and safety of foods we buy and serve our family.  

How ingenuity will feed the world.

In addition to the above infographic, I found myself intrigued by the interview with Dough Rauch, the former president of Trader Joe’s who "has turned one of the most fundamental (and wasteful) principles of retail—always in-stock, cosmetically desirable food—on its head by selling imperfect and past-its-labeled-prime food in a grand supermarket experiment."  In the interview, which you can read here --

"Rauch’s new venture, called Daily Table, is expected to open in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston by September 2014. Rauch and his team will partner with local supermarkets, farms and large foodservice operators including hospitals and hotels; Daily Table will do the gleaning and the preparation and then sell the food to Dorchester residents at a greatly reduced price. Milk, bread, eggs, produce and other “as is” items will account for about 40 percent of sales, says Rauch, in addition to the store’s ready-to-eat fare. The goal: Offer healthy, nutritious food for the same price a family might spend on fast food or less-healthy convenience foods."

How do you think Rauch's venture, Daily Table, will be received?  Will residents bite and purchase imperfect food, to save their hard earned money?  Or, will they turn away like so many other consumers do when they see a bruised fruit, imperfect vegetable, etc. on grocery stores shelves.  My husband would definitely go for this, as he is always checking out the reduced fruits and vegetables at the market, to save a dollar or two. He keeps telling me that they are still good, even though they have seen better days.  And, you know?....he is right.  I love using the bananas for baking, and the girls who don't like the skin on apples and other fruits go crazy for the reduced produce.  And, my husband is happy knowing that he is saving each week at the market, on items that he feel are usually priced too high.

Not only does Rauch want to see less food wasted, but he is also looking for the consumer.  

Rauch points to figures that show more than 17 million Americans were food insecure at some point in 2012—meaning they didn’t know where their next meal was coming from.

“Calories are cheap. Nutrition is expensive. I’d like one in six Americans to eat what they should be eating. I want the problem to be solved. Daily Table has a potentially innovative and different approach,” says Rauch. And if it works, it’s an idea that is scalable, he adds.

Rauch goes on to talk about the shopper safety concerns on foods that he feels are still edible, even though they have gone beyond the date stamped on the package...

“[‘Expired’] misrepresents what the food is,” says Rauch. “‘Expired’ means there’s no more life—it shouldn’t be used. ‘Sell by,’ ‘Enjoy by,’ ‘Best by’—these are relatively new terms. " 

"Code dates are not regulated federally, outside of infant baby formula,” he adds. “There’s no federal regulation on dates, and in almost all instances, the states don’t regulate it either. The food you sell must be wholesome and healthy and give the customer adequate time to use it, but the rest is vague and ambiguous.”  The safety of “expired” food was a major concern among the residents, says Rauch, and his team came armed with independent reports such as the Natural Resources Defense Council’s “The Dating Game.” Ultimately, though, the proof will lie in his store’s success, he believes.

“You’ll never convince everyone until you’re up and running and can establish a safe track record–and that’s understandable,” he says. Ultimately, he hopes Daily Table and other food stores like it can help launch a change in consumer attitudes that could lead to less wasted food from the start.

I will definitely be watching the additional research and solutions that come about from this recent food wast findings, as well as reading about how Rauch's new "Daily Table" concept will prove to be a success or a failure in Dorchester later this year.   Will you, too?

Here is another article that I found interesting on the topic of food waste that was just posted over at ...

How ingenuity will feed the world.

"Blue Marble Biomaterials, a subsidiary of Blue Marble Energy of Missoula, Montana, has grown exponentially in employee size, production and customers over the last year by replacing petroleum-derived chemicals in food, beverage and personal care markets with organic, natural biochemicals, according to a June article by Forbes. Petrochemicals are in chewing gum, perfume, skin creams, sunscreen and beverages, and most are manufactured by Dow Chemical, the article states. Blue Marble Energy is creating biochemicals derived from natural products like pink peppercorn, cardamom seeds and Western Red Cedar to reduce waste and offer a natural alternative for biofuels."

Click here to read more about Blue Marble Energy --


Stay tuned over the next couple of months, as I will be sharing more ah-ha solutions from reading new articles at, as well as sharing how ingenuity can feed the planet.  I can't wait to hear what interviews and pieces you find interesting, after you sign up to receive email updates on new additions to the website.  So, please share to this post, or tag me in your social media posts.  

Thanks to this fun IFT Science Correspondent opportunity, I have a new fire lit about food sciences and health, and can't wait to share what I learn with you. :-)

-- Stay in the Know -- 

Remember, you can sign up to receive monthly updates from IFT and FutureFood 2050, by visiting the FutureFood 2050 homepage.  Then, look in the top right corner where it says “Email______get monthly newsfeed”.  Add your email in the space provided,  and confirm receipt the subscription once you get the notification in your inbox, and your will be all set. :-)

Disclosure:  I will be compensated for my time in sharing more about with you over the course of the next few months.  However, all views I share will be mine and mine alone.

1 comment :

  1. It is so sad how much food is wasted in this country I am always mindful and try not to waste.
    heather [email protected]