FDA, EPA, USDA Join With Restaurants and Grocery Stores to Halve US Food Waste by 2030

Three government agencies announced Wednesday that they would be partnering with a coalition of food industry trade groups to drastically reduce the amount of food that goes to waste in the United States by 2030.

According to a press release published by the Food and Drug Administration, the partnership involves an agreement between three federal agencies—the FDA, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—and the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, or FWRA. The alliance is led by three major trade associations within the food industry: the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the Food Marketing Institute and the National Restaurant Association.

The announcement came out during the 2019 Food Waste Summit in San Francisco and is part of the Winning on Reducing Food Waste Initiative, a collaboration between the USDA, EPA and FDA.

According to the alliance's press release, the goals of the partnership are multifaceted. The participating organizations will focus on educating food providers and consumers about how to make the most of their money and the food they purchase, providing "strategies to prevent, recover and recycle excess food." The partnership will also spur increased communication within the food industry about how best practices for implementing food waste reduction measures, including working with companies to ensure more food is donated rather than thrown away.

Food waste, defined as "the decrease in the quantity or quality of food resulting from decisions and actions by retailers, food service providers and consumers," by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, is a pressing issue in the U.S.

Up to 40 percent of edible food in America goes into the trash uneaten, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, often because consumers store food incorrectly or misunderstand what the "best before" dates on food labels really mean.

A family of four wastes about $1,500 a year on food that no one ever eats, according to information on the NRDC website SaveTheFood.com. This amounts to $124 wasted per month, or roughly $4 per day. Newsweek reported last year that every American wastes, on average, a pound of food each day—amounting to a national total of 150,000 tons of waste every day.

Yet even with all the food that goes uneaten, some 40 million Americans in 2017 had to deal with not having enough food, according to the non-profit organization DoSomething. Further, around 15 million families that year suffered from food insecurity, meaning that they at times lacked access to enough food to feed each of their members.

Representatives from the organizations involved with the partnership said they hoped it would do much to further the goal of cutting food waste in the course of the coming decade.

"The FDA strongly supports our shared goal of reducing the amount of food that Americans waste through important efforts like today's agreement," Dr. Ned Sharpless, acting commissioner of the FDA, said in a press announcement. "The issues of food waste and food safety go hand in hand and we will continue to work with our federal partners and other stakeholders on enhancing our efforts to reduce food waste and do it safely. We are committed to doing all that we can to support safe and sound food policy decisions that are good for our families, good for our communities, and good for our planet."

Dawn Sweeney, president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association, concurred with the FDA. "We look forward to working with our partners to share best practices on food waste reduction and, with greater clarity on liability protections for food donation, make it easier for owners and operators to make food donations in their communities," she said in the FWRA press release. "By reducing food waste, we can serve those in need today and set the table for success tomorrow."

People pick their free fruit and vegetables on offer during a twice monthly food distribution effort on July 18, 2018 in the Watts neighborhood of south Los Angeles, California. Frederic J. Brown/Getty