Garbage bag
Don't throw that out!

How to stop food waste
at home

A new United Nations report reveals that one-third of the food produced every year goes uneaten. This excessive waste has a lasting impact, both on global hunger and the environment. Learn what you can do at home to make an impact on the problem.

We have a love/hate relationship with fresh food: It's absolutely vital for the health and well-being of our families, but so much of it ends up in the trash rather than our mouths.

It's frustrating — and it turns out that food waste is a much bigger problem than we ever imagined. A new study published Wednesday by the United Nations' Food and Agricultural Organization found that one-third of all food produced in the world — 1.3 billion tons — ends up going in the trash.

The problem has a huge impact on both world hunger and the environment. According to the Food Wastage Footprint: Impacts on Natural Resourcesfood waste creates a carbon footprint equal to 3.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide every year. Uneaten food also uses enough water to "equal the annual flow" of Russia's 2,294-mile Volga River, the longest river in Europe.

"All of us — farmers and fishers, food processors and supermarkets, local and national governments, individual consumers — must make changes at every link of the human food chain to prevent food wastage from happening in the first place, and re-use or recycle it when we can't," FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said in the report.

How to cut down on your food waste

Not surprisingly, countries with higher incomes — like the United States, Canada and countries in Western Europe — are largely responsible for the huge amount of food waste. We all have a responsibility to cut down on wasted food, but it seems like food goes bad so quickly.

Not necessarily.

Food expiration dates do not necessarily mean that a food is unsafe to eat, according to the USDA. The key is proper handling and storage.

  • Eggs can still be of "optimum quality" for 30 days after the date listed on the carton.
  • Milk is safe to drink up to a week after its expiration date and up to three months if kept in the freezer.
  • Yogurt is typically safe for a week past the expiration or one to two months in the freezer. Toss it if it has an odd smell or shows mold.
  • An opened jar of mayonnaise will last two to three months past the expiration date, as long as it's kept in the refrigerator.
  • Peanut butter will stay fresh for a month in the pantry — and three to four months in the refrigerator.

Of course, you should always follow your gut when it comes to eating "expired" foods — don't serve something that doesn't pass your smell test or looks odd.

Tell us

How do you cut down on food waste at your house?

Sound off below!

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