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US Joins Call to End Food Waste

10 June 2013

ANALYSIS - The US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has joined the mounting global call to end food waste.

He is calling on both the public sector and private industry and consumers to reduce, recover and recycle food waste.

Mr Vilsack said: “We’re going to develop a nationwide social media campaign with our partners to focus on precisely what the use by date and the sell by date means so that folks don’t discard food prematurely.

“We’re going to continue to use our social media to develop a new food storage application that will give people up to date information on how and best to store food and what constitutes safe or unsafe food.

“We’re going to work with our school lunch programme to reduce food waste in our schools and we’re going to look for ways we can increase donations of imported fresh produce that for whatever reason don’t meet our marketing order standards.”

The campaign to cut waste to help reduce the global carbon footprint of food production and to help feed a growing global population more sustainably started to gather momentum at the beginning of this year following a report from the UK’s Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

In the report, the Institution showed that as much as 50 per cent of global food production went to waste either as crops are harvested, as the food is transported to processing, in the production process, in transport to the stores and in storage either by the stores or consumer.

The institution argued that this food could be used to feed the world’s growing population – as well as those in hunger today and that it is an unnecessary waste of the land, water and energy resources that were used in the production, processing and distribution of this food.

In March, the Global Initiative on Food Losses and Waste Reduction (SAVE FOOD) announced it had teamed up with the Global FoodBanking Network (GFN) to advance the prevention and reduction food loss and food waste and to support food and nutrition security worldwide.

Through SAVE FOOD, The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) brings together a network of civil society organizations, research institutions, public agencies and private companies to sustain, coordinate and multiply global efforts to reduce food losses and food waste.

The FAO said that it aimed to provide evidence that it is possible to cut losses and wastes by at least 50 per cent.

Last week, a report from the UK International Development Committee on global food security also called for an end to food waste on the domestic market and assistance to small farmers in developing countries to tackle hunger and promote food security.

The report urged consumers in the UK to eat less meat and to eat meat from more sustainable sources rather than intensive units.

It added that biofuels are having a detrimental impact on food production helping to cause shortages and volatile prices.

Now the US agriculture secretary has launched a campaign to save waste in food in the US.

“If were America a country that did not have any hungry families one might suggest that this might not be an issue that we should focus on, but the reality is today that there are literally millions of Americans who struggle to be well fed,” he said.

The USDA said that the amount of uneaten food in homes and restaurants across the US was valued at $390 per US consumer in 2008.

And he called for programmes that would get more unsold food to the hungry and composting inedible food that would otherwise go to landfills.

“Part of this is thinking about portion sizes initially and then secondly understanding precisely what the food safety rules are so that you are not discarding food that would otherwise would be healthy and nutritious for your family,” Mr Vilsack said.

Chris Harris

Chris Harris

Top image via Shutterstock

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