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Congress Talks Food Waste, and Beyond

June 6, 2016

By: Meghan Stasz, Senior Director, Sustainability

The House Agriculture Committee hearing on food waste at the end of May that discussed many different influences on waste and the range of ways needed to tackle it as a nation.

GMA testified on behalf of our industry and the cross-industry Food Waste Reduction Alliance (FWRA). This was an excellent opportunity to both highlight the work of FWRA and its members on this issue, and to draw attention to the barriers businesses face to reducing food waste and increasing food donation.

Related to both these key points and a theme of the May 25 hearing is product date labeling. Several studies from groups including the Harvard Law and Policy Clinic, Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Institute of Food Technologists have found that consumers are confused by date labels such as “use by,” “sell by,” “best before” and others. This confusion can lead to unnecessary food waste.

GMA and the Food Marketing Institute (FMI)’s Boards of Directors in January launched an initiative to address this confusion. A working group of companies is currently developing a recommended path forward. This will help address part of the problem, but product date labeling is only one of many solutions needed to reach the national goal of reducing food waste by 50 percent by 2030.

Another theme of the hearing and something GMA included in its testimony is the need for increased infrastructure, which would assist industry in meeting the demand for food waste recycling options.

The most recent assessment of manufacturers, retailers, and restaurant and food service companies conducted by FWRA found that lack of infrastructure was a top barrier to both recycling food scraps and donating food. Due to the nature of food waste, which is heavy and requires frequent pickup, recycling options must be within a reasonable geographic distance and also cost effective. Much can be done to develop composting and anaerobic digestion, a process which turns waste into energy, in the U.S. and expanding this kind of infrastructure will benefit businesses, municipalities and households.

GMA and several other witnesses at the hearing also highlighted the importance of educating and engaging consumers. Consumers represent 44 percent of the food waste sent to landfill in the U.S.

Businesses are working to reduce waste via efforts like the FWRA, but we all have a role to play to meet the national reduction goal. Educating consumers and helping reduce household food waste will take sustained efforts from a range of partners.

In the end, reducing food waste saves natural resources, addresses the challenge of food insecurity, and can mean cost savings from increased efficiency. Food waste happens all along the supply chain and for different reasons, so solutions need to address varying aspects of the supply chain too. Collaborative efforts like that of FWRA are constantly working to identify ways for businesses to reduce waste and recover more food for those in need. Further cross-industry efforts are needed to tackle more of this challenge and GMA looks forward to partnering with stakeholders from the government, nonprofit, and academic sectors to identify new solutions.

 

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  1. […] studies on food waste show that even seemingly small tweaks to manufacturing practices can yield huge reductions because […]

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