A new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that about 150,000 tons of food gets thrown out every day and that the healthiest eaters among us are more to blame than others.
Fruit and vegetables were the most tossed items, followed by dairy and then meat, the research, published in the journal PLOS One on Wednesday, found.
The rotting food waste releases dangerous methane gas into the air and has such a severe impact on the environment that it causes the same amount of damage as using 780 million pounds of pesticides and wasting 4.2 trillion gallons of irrigated water.
And the healthiest Americans are more at fault than others, according to the study, because of their diets high in fruits and vegetables – the most wasted foods.
“We need a simultaneous effort to increase food quality as well as reduce food waste,” USDA nutritionist and co-author of the study, Lisa Jahns, told The Guardian. “We need to put both of those things out.”
The study argues for greater social awareness around properly storing fruits and vegetables in order to decrease waste.
“Consumers aren’t connecting the dots, (and) they don’t see the cost when they throw food in the trash,” Jahns said. “At the same time, we don’t want to undermine legitimate food safety concerns and we need to be aware it’s not just the cost of food that’s the issue. It’s the time and energy required to prepare and store food, which often isn’t a priority in a busy household.”
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