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Study: Americans waste nearly a pound of food daily, labels may be to blame

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) – New research finds Americans waste nearly a pound of food per person each day. What may be even more surprising, the healthier the diet, the more waste there is likely to be.

CBS 58’s Jocelyne Pruna has the story.

Stacy Moore visits the grocery store several times a week. As a private chef she tries to shop smart.

“People buy what they think they will consume and nine times out of ten they really don’t,” Moore said.

A new study shows U.S. consumers waste nearly 150,000 tons of food daily. That equals to about a pound of food per person per day. The wasted food uses about 30 million acres of land, about 7% of the American agricultural area.

“In the bigger picture, it’s a waste of calories, it’s a waste of environmental resources, but in our own households it’s potentially a waste of our own financial resources as well,” said University of Vermont Assistant Professor and study co-author Meredith Niles.

Researchers also found higher quality diets were linked to higher levels of waste. Fruits and vegetables were thrown out the most with 39% of the total food wasted. Experts say that’s just because a lot of people think food has gone bad when it hasn’t.

“Just because a banana has a bruise on it, doesn’t mean we have to throw it away. We can repurpose it. Maybe we don’t want to eat it straight but we could put it in a smoothie or we can blend it up and make banana bread,” said Niles.

Food labels are also a big source of confusion. If something says “sell by,” that’s how long the store has to display it. “Best if used by” and “use by” deal more with the freshness and quality of the food.

Federal lawmakers introduced a bill in 2016 to simplify the labeling process, but it never went to a vote.

Wisconsin lawmakers are taking their own approach on the issue. There’s a bill in committee right now in Madison that would give money to farmers who donate excess crops to feed those in need.

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