Link between food waste and diet quality
Higher quality diets are associated with higher levels of food waste according to a recent study published in PLOS ONE.
In the US each person, on average, wastes more than 400 g of food every day, which is about 30% of the average daily calories consumed. This corresponds with the use of 30 million acres of land annually (7% of total US cropland) and 15.9 trillion kL of irrigation water each year.
This quantity of wasted food is pretty appalling but what the study further revealed was possibly even more problematic. The study found that higher quality diets were associated with higher levels of food waste.
To investigate the impact of diet quality on food waste and environmental sustainability, researchers from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, University of Vermont and University of New Hampshire collected data on food intake and diet quality from the 2015 Healthy Eating Index and USDA’s What We Eat in America (WWEIA) database, and available food waste data.
Of 22 food groups studied, fruits, vegetables and mixed fruit and vegetable dishes (39% of total) were wasted most — followed by dairy (17%) and meat and mixed meat dishes (14%).
Higher quality diets have more fruit and vegetables and these are wasted in higher quantities than other foods.
Researchers said education on preparing and storing fresh fruits and vegetables, and knowing the difference between abrasion and spoilage, is critical to reduce wastage. Other policy efforts should include revising sell-by dates and labels for consistency and food planning and preparation education.
The study notes that several countries, including Brazil, Germany, Sweden and Qatar, have adopted dietary guidelines that incorporate environmental sustainability, but none include food waste as a factor.
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