US wastes 40% of its uneaten food

The US “trashes” more than a third of its food supply.

According to a new a report published by the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC), the equivalent of $165bn of uneaten food is discarded each year by Americas during a time of rocketing food prices and drought conditions.

Sana Gunders, a project scientist at the NRDC, said that US consumers throw away every other piece of food they buy, which is money and resources “down the drain”.

She added: “With the price of food continuing to grow, and drought jeopardising farmers nationwide, now is the time to embrace all the tremendous untapped opportunities to get more out of our food system. We can do better”.

The report examined the latest case studies and government data on the causes and extent of food losses at all levels of the US food supply chain. The report also provided examples and recommendations for reducing the amount of waste.

Some vital findings in the report were that an average American family of four ends up wasting $2,275 of food each year. Food waste in the US is the highest factor of solid waste in the landfills and a 15% reduction would save enough to feed 25m mouths a year. Food wastage has also increased by a half since the 1970s.

Losses in the food system were complex. However, more problems started at the retail level with grocery stores and other sellers were coping with losses as much as $15bn in unsold fruits and vegetables each year – almost half of nationwide supply was going uneaten each year.

Fresh fruit and vegetables were the worst category, losing more than seafood, grains, meat and dairy. In order to put a stop to this, the report recommended retailers stopped over-stocking products on shelves.

Consumers, however, were also considered as a major contributor to food problems, as the majority of losses occurred in restaurants and domestic kitchens.

Another big contributing factor was the large portions being served as well as uneaten leftovers and the increase in portion sizes, which were often two to eight times larger than recommended by the government.

The report also said that wasting food means wasting natural resources such as water and farmland which are needed to grow, transport and store food.

Half of the land in the US is used for agriculture and one quarter of all freshwater used in the country along with 4% of oil also goes into food production. Uneaten food also accounts for more than 23% of all methane emissions in the US.

Gunders said that the US is looking towards Europe and the UK as examples of how to manage food waste.

She added: “No matter how sustainably our food is farmed, if it’s not being eaten, it is not good use of resources”.


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