The folks in Washington, D.C., who’ve launched an effort to cut the nation’s food waste by 50 percent by 2030 should start in Limaland.
From the messages you left on The Lima News’ Facebook page, many of you are already attuned to the way we routinely waste perfectly good food, especially when it comes to supersized restaurant portions and so-called “expiration dates.”
I say, “so-called” because those “sell by” or “use by” dates stamped on everything from milk to meat to crackers have nothing to do with a food “expiring” and being unfit for human consumption. As I noted in my article Sunday on food waste, they are placed there by manufacturers to help grocery stores determine how long to display the product for sale. They’re the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture notes on its website. They are not safety dates.
But you knew that.
“Regardless of dates, if it smells good, we try it,” wrote Lauri Leach Mahan on Facebook. “About the only thing thrown out by date is moldy bread or something that smells bad. I probably have can goods, even cake mix from a few years back.”
Philip M. Crow Sr. said he’s got some products in his cupboard that go back farther than that.
“I’ve had canned goods stored for 25 years and they’re still good,” he wrote. He said he never throws food away based on the dates on the labels.
“My fiancé and I had this discussion,” Steve Gilroy wrote, striking a diplomatic tone. “She refuses to drink milk once it’s hit the ‘sell by’ date. I worked in a grocery store as a teen, you have a good week or more before you have to worry about something going bad.”
David Jones said it all depends on how food is stored. “If stored properly, the sell-by date doesn’t matter too much,” he wrote.
The only exception is infant formula, which must be consumed before its “use by” date because the nutritional quality degrades after that.
Melissa Bowers told us we should be more worried about what’s in our food rather than how long it’s been sitting around.
“Read the ingredients” is her advice. “If you don’t know what it is, then don’t buy it. Won’t matter if it’s outdated or not, it will cause health issues. If it isn’t GMO free, has high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweetener or even ‘natural flavoring,’ it isn’t healthy.”
As for food wasted at restaurants, you’ve noticed, and it bugs you.
Jeannie Beutler said her family “always take leftovers home, and they do get eaten, but why such huge portions? All food if edible should be taken to food shelters, etc. instead of being pitched, within reason.”
Bev Williams thinks smaller portions would help the nation in other ways, too.
“Smaller portions should be served to begin with, which would help America’s obesity problem,” she told us.
Our supersized menu options can’t be fully resolved by taking it home.
“Some food,” she reminded us, “just isn’t good the next day,” like french fries.
“We always bring our uneaten food home and the leftovers from restaurants are eaten about 90 percent of the time,” wrote Angie Toland. “However, the leftovers from food that’s been made at home only gets eaten about 60 percent of the time. … We need to do better.”
“We usually bring ours home,” said Megan Jeremy Ewing of her family’s restaurant leftovers, “but by the time we remember they are there, they are no longer good, and we end up throwing them away.”
Maybe the USDA’s new “FoodKeeper” app would help. It allows you to note on your smartphone when food was purchased and alerts you when they’re nearing the end of their recommended storage date.
Samantha Zimmerman was one of several readers who told us on Facebook that restaurant employees should be able to take surplus food home with them.
“Feed your people,” she scolded. “Most of them cannot afford a whole lot with the cost of everything today and why waste it.”
And, finally, there’s the example Tyler Miller sets when it comes to not wasting precious, nutritious, food, a solution that perhaps only those with fast metabolisms and omnivorous appetites can follow:
“Everything,” Miller wrote on Facebook. “I eat everything.”
Reach Amy Eddings at 567-242-0379 or on Twitter @lima_eddings.