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Shocking: One-third of all food goes to waste

Meagan Morris is an entertainment and lifestyle journalist living in New York City. In addition to SheKnows, Morris contributes to many publications including The New York Times, Yahoo! News, PopEater, NBC New York and Spinner. Follow he...

How to stop food waste at home

A new United Nations report reveals that one-third of the food produced every year goes uneaten. The 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.
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?

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