Practical Tips to Reduce Food Waste

How does your family handle date labels on food packaging? Does an item instantly get chucked into the garbage if it’s past the “sell by” date or does the milk jug in your family’s fridge instantly get handed to your spouse to pass the test of “Here, you smell this and tell me what you think”?

While it’s not recommended that you should be gulping down sour milk holding your nose, food industry experts are saying that consumer confusion over packaging dates has led to excessive amounts of food waste and an unnecessary dent in many families’ checkbooks. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that about a third of all our food gets thrown away at an annual cost of $161 billion.

“Imagine this: You go to your favorite supermarket and come out with three bags full of groceries,” said Frank Yiannas, the FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response. “Before you get in your car, you toss one of those bags in the garbage. Sound ridiculous? Of course it does, but that’s in essence what food waste looks like every day across our country.”

To reduce waste nationwide, there’s a push to simplify the language to “best if used by” instead of phrases such as “sell by” or “expires on.” In addition, leaders would like to adopt standardized rules for labels. However, to make a significant difference in food waste, consumers need to be educated on food storage tips in their own homes and avoid dumping items that may be just one day past their prime.

“Reducing food waste is a shared responsibility, and consumers have an especially important role to play,” Yiannas said. “The FDA is committed to providing the information they need to make safe and sound decisions for their family. Food is too important to waste.”

Practical tips and resources to reduce food waste in your home:
- Download FDA’s Food Facts brochure that includes a fridge and freezer storage chart.

- Add the FoodKeeper app to your phone.

- Refrigerate peeled or cut vegetables.

- Use the freezer to store foods until you are ready to eat them.

- Avoid bulk and impulse purchases, especially of produce and dairy products.

- Order smaller portions at restaurants or bring your leftovers home.

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