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Food waste, a growing concern for consumers

With approximately 1.3 billion tons of food wasted each year, FutureFood 2050 seeks end to food waste

Food waste, a growing concern for consumersDespite poverty and hunger, approximately 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted each year, enough to feed the 9 billion people who will possibly occupy the planet in 2050, says FutureFood 2050.

Sponsored by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), FutureFood 2050 is a multi-year program that highlights the people and stories leading the effort to find solutions for a healthier, safer planet.

To address food waste and seek solutions to the challenge of feeding a growing planet, FutureFood 2050 has released a new set of interviews targeting the problem. According to the program, it will release 75 interviews with the world leaders in food and science through 2015. Food waste is the third installment of the series.

According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, one-third of the food produced each year is lost or wasted.

A study conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Sealed Air Corporation found waste ranked near the top of a list of grocery shoppers’ environmental concerns. The study reported consumers are willing to change behaviors if they are better informed on the issue.

However, the study found that while there is growing concern and awareness of how much food is wasted in the US, most American grocery shoppers still don’t consider their own households to be wasteful or a part of the problem.

“The good news is that more and more people are becoming aware of the staggering statistics surrounding food waste and its devastating environmental, economic and social impact on the world,” says Ron Cotterman, vice president of sustainability at Sealed Air.

IFT says confusion over date labeling is a leading cause of food waste because consumers misunderstanding how the dates and labels relate to food quality or safety. In the US, 25 percent of consumers discard food based on the sell-by date, 37 percent discard food that is past the use-by date, and 10 percent believe eating a food past the best by date poses a serious health risk.

Experts in the food waste problem challenge the food industry to develop a complete overhaul of the date-marking system and call for uniformity and dialogue with regulatory agencies around the world.

“So much attention is paid to increasing global food supplies over the next several decades,” says Tristram Stuart, food waste activist who is profiled in FutureFood 2050’s latest interviews. “But we waste a third of the world’s food supply already, so one way of tackling food security and the environmental impact of food production is to implement the many ways to more efficiently use the food that we already produce.”

In addition to Stuart, those profiled in the new interviews include: Doug Rauch, former president of Trader Joe’s; John Floros, academic at a leading US agricultural college; and Elsje Pieterse, South African scientist.

The program aims to break new ground in the field by looking at the innovative ways scientists, activists and entrepreneurs are tackling the epidemic of global food waste.

Often with creative and sometimes controversial solutions to the problem of food waste, the interviews will incorporate multiple facets of the issue from optimizing crops to challenging consumers’ perceptions of waste and product acceptability.

More information can be found by visiting FutureFood2050.com.

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