Web Exclusive

USDA, EPA, and FDA Unveil Strategy to Reduce Food Waste

In the United States, more than one-third of all available food goes uneaten through loss or waste. Food is the single largest type of waste in our daily trash. In recent years, great strides have been made to highlight and mitigate food loss and waste, but the work has just begun. When food is tossed aside, so too are opportunities for economic growth, more healthful communities, and environmental protection—but that can change through partnership, leadership, and action.

As part of the Trump Administration’s Winning on Reducing Food Waste Month, the USDA, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and FDA announce the release of a federal interagency strategy to address food waste. The agencies held an event at EPA headquarters to hear from state, local, and community leaders and other stakeholders on how all levels of government can work together to reduce food waste.

“Our nation’s agricultural abundance should be used to nourish those in need, not fill the trash,” says US Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. “As the world’s population continues to grow to nearly 10 billion people by 2050 and the food systems continue to evolve, now is the time for action to educate consumers and businesses alike on the need for food waste reduction. I look forward to what the future holds on this initiative and how we can work together to change the hearts and minds of Americans to reduce food waste.”

“With the release of this important interagency strategy, the Trump Administration continues to advance its efforts to reduce food waste and redirect excess food away from landfills and instead use it to feed communities and fuel our economy,” says EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “The new strategy prioritizes six key action areas, such as improving consumer education and food labeling, which will help us maximize the value of our food resources. Today’s event brought together key federal, state, and private partners to further collaboration on innovative food waste solutions.”

“The issue of food safety and food waste are intertwined, with research showing that there is confusion over the meaning behind date labeling terminology on food packages that have an adverse effect on food waste. Contrary to popular beliefs, date labeling on food packages are often intended to communicate time ranges for optimal food quality, not safety,” says FDA Deputy Commissioner Frank Yiannas. “With more than one-third of all available food uneaten through waste or loss and 1 in 6 Americans suffering a foodborne illness each year, it’s clear that many people are unnecessarily discarding food in fear of food safety issues. This is why the FDA is focused on taking steps to make date labeling on foods clearer and easier for consumers to determine when a food should be discarded. We remain committed to working with the EPA and USDA to better educate Americans on how to reduce food waste and how to do it safely.”

The interagency strategy, Winning on Reducing Food Waste FY 2019–2020 Federal Interagency Strategy, includes the following six key priority areas the agencies will work together on over the next year:

• enhance interagency coordination;
• increase consumer education and outreach efforts;
• improve coordination and guidance on food loss and waste measurement;
• clarify and communicate information on food safety, food date labels, and food donations;
• collaborate with private industry to reduce food loss and waste across the supply chain; and
• encourage food waste reduction by federal agencies in their respective facilities.

Those who attended the event announcing the strategy heard remarks from Perdue, Wheeler, and Yiannas. A panel discussion, “Lessons Learned from States, Cities, and Organizations in Reducing Wasted Food,” was followed by an information exchange among all participants on specific community efforts to reduce food waste and additional support needed to advance state, tribal, and local initiatives. In addition, state and local leaders signed a pledge to work together with federal partners to build new or upon existing efforts to address food loss and waste in the United States. At the event, the agencies also announced a joint agreement signed between the agencies and ReFED, Inc. to better evaluate and improve strategies to reduce food loss and waste.

The recent announcements and stakeholder event were key steps in moving forward with the formal agreement signed by all three federal agencies in 2018 announcing the Winning on Reducing Food Waste Initiative. The Winning on Reducing Food Waste Initiative is a collaborative effort among USDA, EPA, and FDA to reduce food loss and waste through combined and agency-specific action. Individually and collectively, these agencies contribute to the initiative, encourage long-term reductions, and work toward the goal of reducing food loss and waste in the United States. These actions include research, community investments, education and outreach, voluntary programs, public-private partnerships, tool development, technical assistance, event participation, and policy discussion.

USDA, EPA, and FDA invite public and private partners to participate in Winning on Reducing Food Waste Month through the following:

• Join the conversation. Share your efforts with the #NoWastedFood hashtag in your social media posts throughout the month.
• Educate your community. Learn about USDAEPA, and FDA programs and resources to reduce food loss and waste.
• Be a United States Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champion. Join other corporate and business leaders who have made a public commitment to reducing food loss and waste in their US operations by 50% by the year 2030.

— Source: USDA