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February 2020 Question of the Month: Is Your Fridge a Food-Waste Black Hole?

Researchers peered into refrigerators to itemize what was used and what wasn’t.

Food in Fridge QOTM

People eat a lot less of their refrigerated food than they expect to, and they’re likely throwing out perfectly good items as a result of misunderstanding labels. This is according to a study in the journal Resources, Conservation & Recycling that aimed to suss out what is contributing to Americans’ rampant food waste.

In a survey conducted by Ohio State University, participants expected to eat 97% of the meat in their refrigerators but typically finished only about half. They thought they’d eat 94% of their vegetables but consumed just 44%. And they finished only 40% and 42% of the fruit and dairy in their fridges, respectively. Ambiguous food labels, including “use by” and “best by,” were top drivers of food waste.

Interestingly, households run by a younger demographic were less likely to use up the items in their refrigerators than residents in homes owned by people 65 and older. Clearly, better management of food within the home is needed to take a bite out of the huge food-waste problem in this country.

Do you toss out more food than you expect to? Are you confused by food labels that address food safety? What are some strategies that people can use to reduce food waste? Send your answers to Sandy Todd Webster at [email protected]

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