The USDA, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released a federal interagency strategy to address food waste. The agencies held an event April 9 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,” said U.S. 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.”
“The new strategy prioritizes six key action areas, such as improving consumer education and food labeling, that will help us maximize the value of our food resources,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “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,” said 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 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
- Encourage food waste reduction by federal agencies in their respective facilities
At the event, the agencies announced a joint agreement signed between the agencies and ReFED, Inc. to better evaluate and improve upon strategies to reduce food loss and waste.
The 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.
The EPA announced the city of Madison, Wisconsin, Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, and Washington State University’s Energy Program have been selected to receive funding for projects to help reduce food waste and loss and divert food waste from landfills by expanding anaerobic digester capacity in the United States. The projects further the Winning on Reducing Food Waste Initiative.