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Tips to prevent food waste and maintain food safety

Food waste and food safety are major concerns According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 6 people get foodborne illness every year in the United States. 30-40% of food is uneaten. This equates to about 20 lb/person/month. $165 billion dollars of food is wasted each year.

While consumers are not the only source of food waste, fears of food safety, confusion of product dates and improper food storage are some of the main reasons food is wasted at home.

Here are some tips to prevent food waste and maintain food safety.

Eggs sell by date
Sell by date on egg carton

Understand the product dates

Sell by date: grocery stores cannot sell this product after this date, it is not a safety date. 

Use by/ Best by date: indicates how long a product could keep for best quality. It is not a purchase or safety date. The product is still safe if stored properly, it’s just not going to be its best quality.

Download the “FoodKeeper” app on your phone

USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture), Cornell University and the Food Marketing Institute developed the FoodKeeper app to help you store food and beverages appropriately. It is available for both Android and Apple devices.

Become a mindful eater

  1. Don’t buy more food than you can consume before it goes bad.

    Refrigerator thermometer
    Keep refrigerator at 37-38 degrees F
  2. Plan your meals and shopping list before you leave. Check your fridge and pantry first so you know what foods you already have.

  3. Be aware that promotions in the store often encourage customers to buy more foods than they need or even foods that they normally don’t consume at home. As a result, many of these foods may end up in the trash.

  4. Avoid over-packing the fridge and check the temperature of your fridge regularly. Set your refrigerator at 37-38 degrees F to keep foods safe.

  5. If you can’t use fresh fruits and vegetables before they spoil, freeze them for later use.

  6. Use overripe fruit and vegetables in cooked dishes like breads, soups or stews.

  7. Do not eat any food that is obviously spoiled -- abnormally soft, discolored, moldy or has a strong unpleasant smell.

Zhongxuan Shi, Extension dietetic intern and Suzanne Driessen, Extension educator

Reviewed in 2018

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