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Department of Food Science and Technology


Waste not, want not? Examining ways to minimize food losses

July 12, 2016

This article is part of a special report on Food Security published by the Ohio State Alumni magazine.

Waste not, want not? Examining ways to minimize food losses

By Marisa Prouix

Europeans used to fear the tomato. “A poison apple,” they called it. In truth, the tomato’s high acidity had caused lead to leach from pewter plates, poisoning aristocrats.

Today, the tomato is considered a superfood. But the vindicated fruit still faces challenges on its way from farm to plate. Pests, disease, weather or a labor shortage could prevent its harvest. It could be culled if considered off grade in post-harvest preparation and packing. Much of it could be wasted during processing as it becomes pizza or spaghetti sauce. Or it might sit unrefrigerated on a hot loading dock during distribution.

If the tomato isn’t As-Seen-On-TV plump and ruby red at retail, it might be cast aside by American consumers accustomed to perfection. Even if it perseveres all the way to the kitchen counter, perhaps only half is used in that time-honored recipe for stuffed poblanos. The other half eventually decomposes in a landfill.

There is more than enough food produced to feed everyone in the United States. But from farm to fork to landfill, an alarming 40 percent goes uneaten annually in this country, with consumer-level waste accounting for the greatest losses.

So why do Americans waste food? Click here to read the full article.