From: Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, via EurekAlert
Published June 10, 2015 03:44 PM

Americans may waste more food that they think

Most Americans are aware that food waste is a problem, are concerned about it, and say they work to reduce their own waste, but nearly three-quarters believe that they waste less food than the national average, new research suggests.

The findings, from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, are significant given that 31 to 40 percent of the American food supply goes to waste, primarily in homes, stores and restaurants. The top foods wasted, by weight, are fruits and vegetables, due in part to their perishability and bulk. Food waste costs Americans $161.6 billion annually.

A report on the research is published June 10 in the journal PLOS ONE.

'Americans perceive themselves as wasting very little food, but in reality, we are wasting substantial quantities,' says study leader Roni Neff, Ph.D., director of the Food System Sustainability & Public Health Program at CLF and an assistant professor in the Bloomberg School's Department of Environmental Health Sciences. 'It happens throughout the food chain, including both a lot of waste by consumers, and a lot on our behalf, when businesses think we won't buy imperfect food. The root causes are complex.'

This first nationally representative consumer survey focused on wasted food sheds some light on factors affecting consumers' waste. The survey, administered to 1,010 American consumers in April 2014, covered awareness, knowledge, attitudes and behaviors related to wasted food.

Despite the large environmental impacts related to wasted food, most survey respondents listed environmental concerns last when ranking reasons to reduce food waste, with just 10 percent calling them 'very important.' Instead, respondents said that saving money and setting a positive example for children were the top motivators for wanting to throw out less food.

When listing reasons why they toss food out before eating it, consumers gave the top reasons as food safety concerns and a desire to eat only the freshest food. While consumers should never be encouraged to eat potentially unsafe food, they can prevent waste by planning meals and portion sizes ahead, only buying and cooking what they need, working to use what they have on hand before it spoils, and freezing what they can't use. Of note, 41 percent of those who composted were not concerned about how much food they wasted.

Continue reading at EurekAlert!

Throwing away food image via Shutterstock.

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