New study shows Americans throw out more refrigerated food than they think
Americans throw out a lot more of their refrigerated food than they realize, according to a new study that looks at the worldwide problem of food waste.
Researchers at The Ohio State University found study participants expected to eat 97% of the meat in their refrigerators but really finished only half. They were also over-optimistic about how much of their vegetables, fruit and dairy would be consumed. In each of those cases, it turned out to be less than 50%.
Professor Brian Roe is the study’s senior author and a professor of agricultural, environmental and development economics at The Ohio State University. He says, “This kind of goes to show that even though the best intentions people have of using the refrigerator to try to help reduce food waste by storing it there and using it for later – often times those good intentions are not followed through.”
Researchers say confusion over “use by” and “sell by” date labels is one of the biggest reasons people waste food. “Date labels are generally about quality, and not about safety,” Professor Roe says, “there are a few exceptions: deli meats, soft cheeses. But other than that, the dates are largely about quality and not safety.”
To cut down on food waste, researchers say to check your fridge before you shop so you don’t buy items you already have. Another tip: rotate your leftovers to the front, so you don’t forget about them.
An estimated one-third of the food produced worldwide is wasted, according to the U.N. About 43% of that waste is due to individual practices as opposed to restaurants, grocery stores and farms. The U.N. says food waste impacts the environment and climate change, guzzling up water and adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.
The Ohio State University study also found younger people were more likely to waste items in their refrigerators, while seniors were the least likely to waste food.