Saturday, April 30, 2011

Wasting Food Stinks

Wasting food stinks. That's why it's important to pay attention to various food products and be smart with their value. Adhering to the following strategies can personally prevent as much food waste as possible, for its a global issue that will hurt us all in the long run if we don't take heed.

Perhaps the most important measure to severely cut down on food waste is to read labels. There is a difference between the 'Expires By' and 'Best When Used By' and 'Sell By' tags that are affixed to the majority of food items we purchase. Only the 'Expires By' tag is explicit because that informs the buyer after what date a particular product will start to go bad. The other two are often misconstrued as an expiration date, but their aim is meant to describe on what date an item's quality of freshness will slowly deteriorate. Eating food that has gone days, weeks, even months after it's 'Best By' or 'Sell By' date is not a cardinal sin, though one should be aware that eating foods past such a date will not be as nutritious – or pleasant – for the body.

Another important measure is how to properly store food. Sealing foods in air-tight bags or plastic containers can keep as much bacteria out as possible while simultaneously preserving its current level of freshness for the future.

Freezing various items, from bread to butter to meat, can also preserve it's longevity without ever really spoiling. Just make sure to denote when those items were frozen, otherwise, they could be discarded by health-conscious nitpickers.

In addition, most, if not all, refrigerators come with humidifiers in pull-out drawers to keep fruits and vegetables crisp and fresh, so it's essential to adjust each level accordingly for a particular food group. Not that I have anything against food segregation.

And it never hurts to plan ahead. Don't go out buying fruits, vegetables, dairy, and meats (among others) without having an appropriate timetable for their consumption. Leaving foods untouched for months on end is just as bad, if not more so, than improvising what will be had for dinner.

It is imperative to take these measures into our own hands because if not, we will continue to cause a lot of preventable problems. One study concluded that even with present waste management practices in place, the amount of food waste would not only increase through the year 2025, it will do so for every continent with human life [1]. That's alarming, especially considering how much food is wasted in the United States alone. On average, Americans throw away 14% of foods they buy at stores and markets, and nearly $600 worth of these groceries annually [3]. This perpetual cycle of buying foods and throwing away a small minority may not sound like much, but its accumulation is detrimental to the environment. In 2009 alone, more than 33 million tons of food waste ended up in landfills to produce methane, a greenhouse gas that is "21 times more potent than carbon dioxide" to pollute the air and cause global warming [2]. Shhh, if you listen real closely, you can hear Al Gore scream in agony.

Fortunately, precautionary measures have been implemented to help reduce this staggering amount of food waste... and keep the former Vice Presidential candidate at ease. Various states in America have already established commercial food waste collection centers to specifically handle this issue, including California, Minnesota, and Washington [4]. Many other states don't have one, but it's high time. With their help, and with our pledge to cut back on food waste, this country can begin to breathe a little easier.

(Academic) Works Cited
[1] Adhikari, Bijaya K., Suzelle Barrington, and Jose Martinez. "Predicted Growth of World Urban Food Waste and Methane Production." Waste Management and Research, Vol. 24 (5), Oct. 2006. Pp. 421-433. Web.

[2] "Basic Information About Food Waste." Food Waste. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, n.d. Web.

[3] "Half of US Food Goes to Waste." Food Production Daily. Decision News Media, 25 Nov. 2004. Web.

[4] Yespen, Rhodes. "U.S. Residential Food Waste Collection and Composting." BioCycle, Vol. 50 (12), Dec. 2009. Pp. 35-41. Web.

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