According to the United Nations Environment Programme, Americans waste more than 20 pounds of food per person each month.
In the United States, labeling foods with expiration dates started in the 1970s and was intended to reassure customers they were getting fresh quality food. However, today, the main reason why people throw away their food is because they misinterpreted a product’s expiration date. In reality, food lasts longer than we think it does.
Fun fact: Did you know that some foods don’t even need an expiration date because they never expire? Honey, salt, white rice, and soy sauce are some examples of those foods that live well beyond their apparent expiration date. Yet, in order to be legally sold in stores, all products are required to have an expiration date. Thus, despite the fact that they can last forever, these products are still being wasted.
In recent years, social movements like “dumpster diving” and “waste cooking” have been sparked in attempts to reveal how much food is wasted on a daily basis. For example, “Waste Cooking” is an Austrian TV show in which a German chef turns trash into delicious meals. Similar, the Canadian documentary “Just Eat It” highlights how wasting foods has a direct impact on our environment.
The French government has even taken a step further and is the first country that has passed a law prohibiting grocery stores from throwing away expired foods. Instead, these items have to be donated to local food banks and homeless shelters.
How can you help to improve the situation?
- Educate yourself and others. The biggest problem is that most problem don’t know that this is a serious problem.
- Be mindful. Instead of throwing out foods, donate them to your local food bank!
- Shop smarter. Wasting food can easily be avoided, all you have to do is plan out your weekly meals so you know what items to buy.
- Freeze away! Once fresh produce starts to wilt, just freeze it to extend its shelf life! Even flour can be frozen and will almost more than double its “expiration date.”