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Americans Underestimate Amount of Food They Waste: Survey

Just under one-third of Americans – 30 percent – are unaware of how much food they waste, according to a survey by the Washington, D.C.-based International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation.

Of those who admitted that they waste food, the top causes included forgetting about perishable food until it’s too late (19 percent), buying too much fresh or perishable food (17 percent), cooking big meals and discarding what’s left over (8 percent), and not eating everything on their plates (7 percent).

The majority of those surveyed said they’re trying to cut down on food waste, however. More than half of respondents said that they take leftovers home from restaurants (58 percent), use leftovers from what they cook at home (53 percent), plan meals in advance (51 percent), and make shopping lists (51 percent), while 47 percent said they use or freeze leftovers in a timely fashion.

It’s highly unlikely that one-third of Americans play no role whatsoever in food waste,” said IFIC Foundation CEO Joseph Clayton. “On World Food Day [Oct. 16], and every day, we all need to be mindful of the ways we contribute to food waste and what we can do about it.”

Added Clayton: “In developing countries, we can improve the farm-to-market process by encouraging upgrades to the storage and transportation of food. In developed countries, consumers are often confused by the various product date labels such as ‘sell by,’ ‘use by,’ ‘best before,’ ‘expires on’ and others, so they throw out food that is still safe to eat. This presents an opportunity to help people understand what these labels mean.”

Views on Sustainability, Agriculture

The survey also gauged respondents’ attitudes to sustainability. While about three-quarters (73 percent) said that it’s important that food products be produced in a sustainable way, their definitions of sustainability varied.

These definitions of sustainability included conserving the natural habitat (44 percent), reducing the amount of pesticides used to produce food (43 percent), ensuring an affordable food supply (37 percent), and ensuring a sufficient food supply for the growing global population (35 percent). Despite their interest in sustainability, respondents differed on whether they’d pay more for sustainable food and beverages, with just over one-third (38 percent) saying they’re willing to do so.

Asked about the role of agriculture, 70 percent of respondents said that they view modern agriculture as playing at least a small role in ensuring that all people have access to healthy food; almost half (47 percent) agreed that modern tools, equipment and technologies in agriculture are sustainable; and more than one in two Americans said that modern agriculture produces nutritious (56 percent), safe (53 percent), high-quality foods (51 percent).

The IFIC Foundation’s full 2016 Food & Health Survey findings and additional information are available online.

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