Reducing Food Waste

Reducing Food Waste | Sandandsuccotash.com

Reducing Food Waste | Sandandsuccotash.com

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and the EPA Administration announced a first-ever national food waste reduction goal – a 50% reduction by 2030 – joining with private industries and charitable organizations. This is after the joint USDA and EPA U.S. Food Waste Challenge initiative from 2013 which attracted over 4,000 participants a year after it started, surpassing its original goal of 1,000 participants by the year 2020.

From a USDA press statement:

Food loss and waste is single largest component of disposed U.S. municipal solid waste, and accounts for a significant portion of U.S. methane emissions. Landfills are the third largest source of methane in the United States. Furthermore, experts have projected that reducing food losses by just 15 percent would provide enough food for more than 25 million Americans every year, helping to sharply reduce incidences of food insecurity for millions.

This announcement comes a week before a UN General Assembly which will address sustainable food production and consumption by world leaders.

If the concept sounds too big to process, it isn’t. Ending food waste begins in homes as well as with businesses that prepare food. Here are some tips from Choosemyplate.gov for planning, purchasing, preparing, and storing food prepared at home, and as well as what to do with product you need to throw out.

  1. Planning Meals: Prepare a shopping list and develop a game plan when grocery shopping after creating a meal plan or menu. When making menus, look at the inventory you currently have in the cupboard as far as canned goods and staples go, and the refrigerator and freezer for items to use up first. Grocery lists can prevent over purchasing and can help reduce impulse buying for things you really don’t need.
  2. Food Safety: Knowing the basics of food safety will prevent food from being tossed simply from improper handling, preparing, and storing. The downloadable Kitchen Companion: Your Food Safe Handbook is a great resource to have in the kitchen. And when planning the weekly menus, it’s a great opportunity to clean out the refrigerator and freezer at the same time preventing food borne illness and keeping the refrigerator organized. Remember to keep perishables at the back of the refrigerator and separate raw meats, poultry, and seafood from other foods.
  3. Composting: Instead of throwing out organic material – which goes straight to the landfill – try composting. Things that can be composted: fruits and vegetables, eggshells, coffee grounds, teabags, and nutshells. Food products that cannot be composted include dairy products, fats, and meat and fish scraps or leftovers, which all contribute to rodents and flies.

If you are a business or an organization that prepare or handle food (grocers, hotels, universities, restaurants, caterers, entertainment venues, theme parks, etc.), consider joining the FRC (Food Recovery Challenge) as either a participant or an endorser. Participants donate leftover food and endorsers promote sustainable food management.

According to Vilsack, 1,500$ of food is left uneaten per year, per family of four in the U.S. By challenging ourselves, we can all reduce that amount in our own homes.

The FDA’s Trans Fats Ban: Public Good vs. Easy Formulations vs. Making Profits

The FDA has given us three years to come up with something other than Trans Fats in food, having taken the GRAS label (‘generally recognized as safe’) from it. This has been a long time coming as partially hydrogenated oils, which make up a significant amount of Trans Fats in foods, has been shown to majorly contribute to the nation’s poor heart health.

Right now, labels can be misleading. Foods can be labeled as zero Trans if they do not exceed a certain amount per serving. This is from the FDA’s press release:

Currently, foods are allowed to be labeled as having “0” grams trans fat if they contain less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving, including PHOs, the primary dietary source of artificial trans fat in processed foods.

It is confusing as ‘0’ should mean actually ‘zero’.

But it will be difficult to simply remove Trans Fats entirely at first since many emulsifiers in use today are derived from partially hydrogenated oils (which contains Trans Fats). Also, reformulations by food manufacturers and commercial bakers will take time and money. The object is to create a product that has the same shelf life and flavor as the current product with the Trans Fats, which is not always easy since there are no clear substitutions at times.

I just posted on the pastry blog how this will affect bakers and food manufacturers, and how a Rabbi puts to rest any notions of placing profits over public health. Link is below.

FDA’s New Trans Fat Ban, the Revocation of GRAS Status, and How It All Affects Bakers – Sometimes Morally.

Now This is Scary: Superbug Resistant to Last-Resort Antibiotics Makes Way to Food Chain

The zombie apocalypse doesn’t need to happen to end civilization. A few of these superbugs swimming around in everyday food would though.

Via Morguefile.

Via Morguefile.

If you’ve read this article: Antibiotic resistance will mean the end of just about everything as we know it (Salon.com) based on the author’s read of this literally terrifying article, Imagining the Post-Antibiotics Future, then this news will set you back on your heels – Carbapenem-resistant bacteria has been found in Canadian squid that was imported from South Korea.

How does this little bit of food industry news become really scary? From Maryn McKenna, “Very Serious Superbugs in Imported Seafood,” Wired.com:

…the concern is that the DNA conferring this resistance passes from this bacterium into the vast colony of diverse bacteria that live in your gut for your entire life, becoming incorporated into your gut flora and posing a risk of drug-resistant illness at some future point when the balance of your immune system slips.

That this was found on seafood—a type of food that we tend to undercook and sometimes eat raw—just increases the risk of transmission. And that’s not even to mention the possibility that bacteria containing the gene spread to other seafood or other foods in that store, or in the kitchens of anyone unlucky enough to bring them home.

Now that’s just plain frightening.