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What Steps Must the U.S. Take to Reduce Food Waste?: The European Model


According to a Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) study, 40% of food in America goes uneaten. The behind the scenes practices of healthy food disposal rarely have anything to do with human safety but rather human aesthetic concern. In other words, more healthy food is thrown away because it doesn’t look good, not because it's spoiled. 


Follow Across the Pond


America can learn from The European model for reducing healthy food which consists mainly of adopting a “closed loop” or “circular economy”. This is achieved by adapting vigilant  transparency and oversight. 


The European model for food waste reduction recommends AVOIDING these factors:


  • Insufficient shopping like buying too many sale items that lead to edible foods thrown away
  • Misunderstanding of “best before” and “use by” dates
  • Standardizing portion sizes in restaurants
  • Better customer number anticipation as in catering and party planning 
  • Overstocking
  • Inadequate storage and transport


Understand Expiration Dates 


How long healthy food can be stored on shelves and in homes prompts continued food waste. It is suggested that, “sell by” dates be removed to avoid premature food disposal and that “use by” dates be considered an estimate. 


A John’s Hopkins University paper reports that, “Sell-by dates are merely the manufacturer's estimate of peak freshness, not deadlines for safe consumption.” 


According to a 2013 study released by Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic and the NRDC (as reported by MarketWatch), 


“Consumers are confused by what is fresh food and what is bad food, and they conflate different supermarket labels. Phrases like “sell by,” “use by,” and “best before” are poorly regulated and often misinterpreted, the report found: “It is time for a well-intended but wildly ineffective food date labeling system to get a makeover.”


Jar It, Dry It, Freeze It, Save It


One way you can reduce your healthy food waste is by freezing, drying, jarring and saving foods. This is nothing new as cultures across the globe have been doing it since the dawn of agriculture. Canned, boxed and other packaged foods are often processed for a long shelf life turning healthy food into chemically manipulated, unhealthy food. However, purchasing or preparing foods simply by removing oxygen in the process instead of adding chemical preservatives will enable small portions when needed.


It is important to wrap your food before freezing and animal products like meat or fish should be fully thawed before cooking. Herbs like basil and parsley can be dried or frozen and freezer stored fruits are perfect in a smoothy instead of ice. 


Educate, Don’t Believe the Hype


Many influencing factors have determined how Americans view healthy food when most of it is just hype. This can be found on cooking programs “staging” food to be the perfect color and size; supermarkets throwing away blemished, misshapen foods to make room for more “perfect” brand driven picks; restaurants having to comply to strict Health Department regulations resulting in tons of discarded healthy food; and bleaching, dyeing and packaging food to look like healthy food. 


These are just a small example of how mainstream America has been programmed into thinking food is inedible when it looks slightly different. Educating how food can be utilized is essential to reducing food waste and it all begins with changing the public’s perception. 


USDA Food Loss and Waste Reduction Activities


By reducing food waste we can keep healthy food on tables and out of landfills where it contributes to methane gas emissions, a major contributor to climate change. 


In 2015 the USDA and EPA announced their concerted effort to reduce national food waste in half by 2030. These are some of the USDA’s food loss and waste reduction activities currently in motion:


  • On-farm storage - Reduces post-harvest loss by providing farmers with effective, safe and readily accessible storage for crops
  • Rural county support - on-site visits to determine strategies for reducing food waste; capture systems; reduction strategies; and local options for composting and bio-digesting
  • Streamline procedures for donating wholesome misbranded meat products
  • Connecting fresh produce importers with charitable institutions



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