The magnitude of food waste is a pressing problem, which causes harm to the economy and the environment. In the United States, nearly 40% of food gets thrown away. This is primarily due to the ignorance of the consumers and the distributors with regards to food waste. Consumers should be mindful about the amount and kind of food they purchase while distributors should be careful not to overstock the shelves (Food Waste: The Facts, n. d. ). Consumers should be more mindful about throwing away food just because it is older than the sell by date.
The sell by date actually has no correlation to freshness; it just lets the grocer know when to take it off the self. Use by dates, on the other hand, are a better indicator of freshness. ( Woodruff, 2013). For example, milk is still fresh a week after the sell by date (Do Food Expiration Dates Really Matter, n. d. ). As long as the food is handled with proper precautions such as making such the food is refrigerated and/or kept in dry conditions the food has potential to last a long time after this date. However, many grocery stores throw food out before they reach their sell by date.
This is problematic since that food is still good yet. The food that is wasted in grocery stores can be used to feed many people, there is a lot of wasted potential that occurs at the retail level. Not to mention, grocery stores lose $15 billion dollars just in produce products each year and the waste takes an avoidable toll on the environment. For example, this food waste causes an immense amount of fossil fuels, arable land, and fresh water to be wasted (Schiffman, 2013). Additionally, it causes a depletion of the worlds fisheries and soil and an increase greenhouse gases, pesticides and deforestation.
The countries being hit the hardest are countries such as Brazil and Kenya, whose economies are supported by food production in wealthier countries (MacDonald, 2009). These externalities that impact the environment do not truly account for the true cost of the food purchased. The environmental consequences of this food waste are significant and in order to reduce it there has to be a change in the system. While there is not just one single solution to this problem, selling food past the sell-by date has found some success in stores. Grocery models that sell “expired” food have been implemented at a national and international level.
In the Untied States, “The Daily Table” is a store that sells food that is expired or close to expiring. The store is located in an impoverished community. Dorchester, Massachusetts. The stores sell this expired food for a reduced price. Their inventory has been donated by local supermarkets that are deemed not fit for sale. The store was started because it would provide healthy food options to those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it. A critic of this concept argues that less food is donated to food banks because it is getting donated to these types of stores.
This is not true because food banks deal primarily with non-perishable items (Jacobs, 2013). On an international level, a new grocery store in Denmark sells expired food. It is called “We Food” and is located in the capital of Copenhagen. The store has experienced great success during the time it has been open. There are crowds of people lined up every day waiting to buy the expired goods. This store hopes to reduce the amount of food that is wasted in Denmark, in an effort to combat global warming. This program has been one of the initiatives to reduce the amount of food waste in the country.
Because of the more conscientious practices, Denmark has seen a reduction of 25 percent of uneaten food that ends up in the landfills. (Overgaard, 2016). Clearly, the support for the system is in demand for at least on piece of the American demographic. More support needs to be rallied none-the-less in order to get the amount of food waste down like the country of Denmark has been able to. There are also additional methods, including spreading awareness, diverting excess food and government interference, to help mitigate the amount of food waste.
Some grocery stores spread awareness to encourage the consumer to make smarter choices regarding their food consumption. This includes informing consumers about the validity and accuracy of expiration dates. Weis Markets, a grocery store based in Pennsylvania, is taking an initiative to inform their customers on food waste. It created a “food waste awareness month” where they informed the consumer on how to reduce their footprint when it comes to food waste. The brochure informed the customer on how to properly store their food, prepare it and understand sell-by dates (Biocycle World, 2015).
This information is essential for buyers to know, since their shopping habits are contributing to the massive amounts of food waste in grocery stores. When the typical customer walks into the produce section, they tend to choose the fruit in the most pristine condition, overlooking the bruised, old and ugly. While most remain perfectly edible, consumers visually discriminate which leads to massive amounts of waste (Husted, n. d. ). However this is understandable. Who would want to purchase a bruised apple or the chicken a day before the sell-by date when there are other options available?
Therefore, methods like these should be secondary since it is unlikely that a consumer will willingly purchase the food they deem to be poor quality for the same price that they can purchase the newer and fresher food. Other ways grocery stores deal with food waste is through diverting the waste. For example, Publix, a large grocery store chain located in the South East United States, has worked with Waste Management, North Americas largest recycler. In 2013, Publix has managed to divert more than 10,800 tons of food waste away from the landfill and organic food to feed animals in zoos and sanctuaries.
This amount increased to 19,000 tons the following year and Publix is working on increasing participation in the following years. (Recycling Efforts. n. d. ). In some cases, government interference has also been used to combat the problem of food waste. For example, France passed a law that prohibits French supermarkets from destroying the unsold food. Now, these supermarkets have to donate or compost the food (Overgaard, 2016). In America, the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation act was passed, which allows food to be donated without liability (Frykholm, 2011).
Lack of government interference can also help reduce the amount of food waste since expiration dates are not federally regulated, which allows for most food that is passed its expiration date to be sold. The only item that is exempted from this rule is baby food and formula. This is because the quantity of the nutrients in the food has to match what is on the label to insure the baby is getting the proper nutrients. This is especially important since they are still developing (Did you know that a store can sell food past the expiration date? , n. d. ).
These other methods of food management are important to have in place regardless, but preemptive measures should be taken to avoid food waste from the start. This plan to integrate selling expired food in grocery stores has its limitations. Some sources show that grocery stores are able to earn more profit by throwing out food that is expired rather than selling it at a discounted price. This is because stores are able to sell the item for the whole ticketed price, rather than a partial amount that they would otherwise earn. This would provide chains no real benefit to sell these items.
In addition to that, some food chains are weary about the idea of selling food past the sell by date, let alone donate it. The Safeway chain has claimed that they do not donate food since it is “unfit for consumption”. However, when journalists were examining the food that Safeway was throwing out, it was in pristine condition. Safeway does not want to risk the liability of donating the food, despite the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation act allowing them to do so without the risk of liability (Frykholm, 2011).
Another limitation is that this method has only been seen eing successful in low income neighborhoods. For example, “social supermarkets” are growing in popularity all across Europe. These stores are exclusively for the poor, who benefit from the lower prices than traditional grocery stores. The entry to this store is limited to those who qualify for the welfare programs. The food available are those that have been rejected by the grocers because it may be mislabeled, damaged, etc. (Graslie, 2013). The supermarket “The Daily Table”, as aforementioned, also has the poor as a target customer.
This has still caused controversy as even though the store sells food that is by the sell by date that is still edible, health affordable, some people are against this idea since it sound that they are just trying to sell the ‘rich mans garbage’ to lower income people (Holt, n. d. ). This is troubling because these stores are excluding the most influential group, the middle class. Since the middle class has a higher disposable income, they become more careless about spending (Parfitt, J. , Barthel, M. , & Macnaughton, S. , 2010). This means that cooperation with programs that sell expired food with a reduced price will probably be reduced.