Food safety is a concern. According to the CDC, ~48 million cases of foodborne illness occur each year, which results in 128,000 hospitalizations and 3000 deaths. Food waste is also a concern because the wasted food that ends up in our landfills are a large source of methane gas production. Methane is a gas that absorbs heat from the sun and warms the atmosphere. Not only is food waste hard on the environment, it is also hard on our wallets. An estimated $165 billion in food is thrown out each year.
You’ve likely heard of both of food safety and food waste before, but do you know how they are connected? Food waste occurs at every step of the food production process from farm to table, but food waste also occurs from consumers who are concerned about food safety. This is often a result of misunderstanding food product dating labels and being unsure on how to store perishable foods.
Perishable foods, such as meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, fruits, and vegetables, should be stored at 40 degrees F or less or frozen at 0 degrees F. Packaging may also be labeled with a “sell by”, “use by”, or “best by” date.
“Sell by” means that this product should not be sold after the stated date for the consumer to have the best quality product.
“Use by” or “best by” mean that this is how long the product will keep at its best quality.
These dates are quality dates and not safety dates. Most products are still safe after their “sell by”, “use by”, and “best by” dates as long as they have been properly stored.
Here are some tips to help reduce food waste:
Know how much food you are throwing away.
Don’t buy more food than you can use before it goes bad.
Make meal plans and shopping lists.
Don’t make impulse or bulk purchases.
When eating out, bring leftovers home or split a meal.