New research published in Plos One shows that people who follow what are traditionally seen as healthier diets cause more food waste.
The report, “Relationship between food waste, diet quality, and environmental sustainability,” says that an average American wastes nearly one pound of food a day. It also showed that people who eat more fruits and vegetables tend to cause more food waste because the produce usually spoils sooner.
“The current results suggest that simultaneous efforts to improve diet quality and reduce food waste may be critical,” the report says. “Practically, increasing consumers’ knowledge about how to prepare and store fruits and vegetables will be an essential component to reducing food waste.”
The report also suggests that additional research is needed to better understand how reducing food waste can contribute to monetary savings at the household level, especially for those with limited food budgets.
Specifically, the data showed that US consumers wasted 422 grams of food per person daily, with 30 million acres of cropland used to produce this food every year. This accounts for 30 percent of daily calories available for consumption, one-quarter of daily food (by weight) available for consumption, and 7 percent of annual cropland acreage.
Fruits and vegetables and mixed fruit and vegetable dishes accounted for 39 percent of food waste, followed by dairy (17 percent), meat and mixed meat dishes (14 percent), and grains and grain mixed dishes (12 percent). Remaining foods and dishes each accounted for less than 10 percent of total food waste: other foods and dishes (mostly candy, soft drinks, and other beverages), salty snacks, soup, potatoes and mixed potato dishes, nuts and seeds, Mexican dishes, eggs and mixed egg dishes, and table oils and salad dressing.
The report says that not enough research has been done to link food waste to sustainability efforts, despite a growing focus on understanding where and how food is wasted in the food system.
Globally, enough food is wasted every year to feed nearly 2 billion people a 2,100 kcal/day diet.
“Food waste is an important indicator of sustainability because it embodies the sum of resources used to produce uneaten food, including cropland, agricultural chemicals like fertilizers and pesticides, and irrigation water; in other words, these inputs are used to grow food that is ultimately wasted by consumers,” the report says.