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Volume 38, No. 2

Why We Waste Food

The Single Bad Reason We Waste Billions of Pounds of Food

Your household will probably waste $1,500 of food this year, but there's a way to fix that

A recent report by some of my colleagues at Harvard Law School estimates that up to 40 percent of the food produced in the United States goes uneaten and that consumers waste approximately 160 billion pounds of food each year. Put differently, the federal government estimates that each year the average four-person household wastes more than two million calories, the equivalent of $1,500. Why exactly are we paying millions of dollars to throw away food?

One answer—maybe the answer—is law. A mix of federal, state and local laws make it almost impossible to get food that would otherwise be wasted to those who could use it. If you donate food to someone and they get sick or even die, then you could be legally liable for their injury. That risk, however small, means that when choosing between giving away and throwing away food, the least risky choice is to toss it. Some restaurants have found ways to manage this problem by carefully picking recipient organizations and transporters and carefully documenting their own preparation practices, but many have not. Often it is easier to do the wrong thing; or rather, the law has made wasting food the only thing for many restaurants. Read the full article.

Originally published August 24, 2016 by By Jacob Gersen.

Image by the US Department of Agriculture. See licensing agreement.

For informational purposes only - not intended as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, nor an endorsement by the American Nutrition Association®. Use permitted for non-profit and non-commercial uses or by healthcare professionals in their practice, with attribution to Other use only with written ANA℠ permission. Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the ANA℠. Works by a listed author subject to copyrights as marked. © 2010 ANA℠