Continuing our Q&A’s with members of the Federal Food Loss and Waste Reduction Initiatives panel at WasteExpo, Waste360 was able to reach out and ask some questions to Jean Buzby and Priya Kadam.

Gage Edwards, Content Producer

April 24, 2023

6 Min Read
food waste trash can MR1540.jpg
Daisy-Daisy / Alamy Stock Photo

Continuing our Q&A’s with members of the Federal Food Loss and Waste Reduction Initiatives panel at WasteExpo, Waste360 was able to reach out and ask some questions to Jean Buzby and Priya Kadam.

Buzby works for the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a USDA Food Loss and Waste Liaison and Kadam is a Senior Advisor for Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Waste360: What is the current state of food waste in the United States?

Buzby: Roughly 1/3 of all food is wasted or lost from the U.S. food supply. FLW also exacerbates the climate change crisis with its significant greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint. There is no room in a transformed food system for this much food waste and the resulting environmental impacts, particularly when 10.2% (13.5 million) of U.S. consumers were food insecure at some time during 2021 (Coleman-Jensen, 2022). In addition, addressing FLW can also help increase supply chain resiliency. To make meaningful inroads to meeting the FLW 2030 goal, multiple targeted and large-scale strategies and projects will need to be implemented by both the public and private sectors.

Kadam: FDA is well-informed that in America, roughly 30 –40% of food is never eaten. Approximately, 133 billion pounds of food is wasted over a year that’s equivalent to approximately 364 million pounds per day of food is uneaten. Each year food wasted costs a family of four $1, 500, and 42.2 million Americans live in food insecure households with limited access to enough food for a healthy lifestyle. This wasting of food contributes to wasting resources like water, energy, and labor. Wasted food ends in landfill and contributes to 8% of annual global greenhouse emissions.

 

Waste360: What efforts have been made in the past five years, decade to reduce waste and fight food insecurity?

Buzby: There has been increasing awareness and interest in FLW and its reduction. Both private and public sector have made inroads and, in some cases, they work together.  For example, USDA and EPA have a joint initiative called the U.S. Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champions, whereby food businesses can publicly commit to reducing FLW in their own U.S. operations by 50% by 2030.  Members include industry giants like Kroger, Starbucks and Hilton.

 

Waste360: Can you please preview some tools your agency has available for food loss prevention/waste reduction?

Buzby: Foodkeeper App

USDA also provides information on food date labeling to reduce consumer confusion and help consumers avoid throwing out wholesome food prematurely.

USDA also shares information on the product liability protections afforded for those who donate to qualified nonprofits under the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act and recent updates.

Kadam: FDA has a website dedicated on educational resources for reducing food loss and waste.

Education Resources for Consumers: FDA has created educational resources for consumers on tips to reduce food waste. The main message that FDA tries to focus on in most of the materials such as infographics, a tip sheet, animations, and social media outreach, is how consumers can reduce food waste whether it’s at home, when eating out, or when serving food to friends and family. We provide a wide variety of tips to provide ideas for practical and actionable ways consumers can reduce waste in their daily lives. Some examples include: if available purchase “ugly” fruits or vegetables that often get left behind at the grocery store but are safe to eat; use serving size information on the Nutrition Facts label to help portion meals or snacks; and use FoodKeeper app that has information on how long most common foods can be stored in the freezer.

FDA has an infographic, video, page solely focused on date labeling. FDA supports efforts by the food industry to make “Best if Used By” the standard phrase to indicate the date when a product will be at its best flavor and quality. In February 2022, FDA updated our advice to consumers about food waste and food storage best practices. See: https://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm529381.htm.

 

 

Waste360: Briefly describe a federal effort that will be highlighted during the session.

Buzby: USDA has invested $30 million over three years in the Composting and Food Waste Reduction Cooperative Agreements.  There are plans for major investments in FLW reduction, stay tuned for an announcement by USDA in the next couple of weeks.

Kadam: FDA is committed on reducing Food Loss and Waste (FLW). Following are examples of initiatives that FDA has taken to address FLW, which will be highlighted during the session.

Food Donation: In December 2022, FDA updated the Food Code, highlighting human food donation to provide consistency and uniformity for public health officials on food donation practices that ensure alignment with food safety requirements. The updated Food Code makes it explicitly clear that food donations are acceptable, should proper food safety practices be in place. State, local, tribal, and territorial regulators can then adopt this new language to try to encourage greater utilization of food donation practices to help prevent food loss/waste and ensure safe, good quality food can get to those who need it most.

Date Labeling: In 2019, FDA published a letter to the food industry regarding food waste. The letter stated that FDA supports the food industry’s efforts to standardize the use of the term “Best if Used By” on its packaged-food labeling if the date is simply related to optimal quality — not safety.

Food Traceability:  In 2022, FDA published the Food Traceability Final Rule which is designed to assist food manufacturers, farmers, distributors and retailers to optimize handling, routing, and storage; improve inventory and supply chain management; expedite initiation and completion of recalls if contaminated lots can be isolated; and adopt other food supply system efficiencies due to a standardized approach to traceability, all of which provide an opportunity to reduce food loss and waste from farm to fork.

Food Recovery: FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) will issue updated Guidance for Industry with FDA’s current thinking on the Diversion or Reconditioning of Damaged, Contaminated, or Adulterated Food for Use as Animal Food.

 

Waste360: What does federal funding currently look like for this issue – specifically the 2024 and future budgets?

Buzby: In recent years, Congress has appropriated $500,000 to USDA for the USDA Food Loss and Waste Liaison and related activities.  In a June 2, 2022 USDA press release, USDA announced up to an $90 million investment to reduce FLW using American Rescue Act funds.  We do not know if/what future budgets will have for FLW.

 

Waste360: What are some key takeaways attendees will learn from your participation in the session?

Buzby: We have a long way to go to reduce food waste by 50% by 2030.

FLW is complex and will take many different solutions from farm to table.

Everyone has a role to play in reducing food loss and waste.

Many USDA efforts touch on or relate to FLW as part of normal operating business.  USDA addresses FLW across the entire food supply chain:

  • Program Funding

  • Outreach

  • Research and Research Funding

  • Regulatory Guidance

 

Hear more from Jean Buzby and Priya Kadam at WasteExpo in New Orleans during the session: Federal Food Loss and Waste Reduction Initiatives.

Also, check out the Q&A with EPA Associate Chief Lana Suarez on the topic of food waste prevention tools and solutions.

About the Author(s)

Gage Edwards

Content Producer, Waste360

Gage Edwards is a Content Producer at Waste360 and seasoned video editor.

Gage has spent the better part of 10 years creating content in various industries but mostly revolving around video games.

Gage loves video games, theme parks, and loathes littering.

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