What a drag it is, eating kale that isn't as crisp as it was when first plucked from the ground. Squash that's a few days old, too — it isn't bad, but it could be better. It could be one day old. Or not old.
A new study, published this Wednesday by a team of researchers at Johns Hopkins University, found that Americans are pretty picky about what gets to stay in their refrigerators. One of the most common excuses for tossing out food is that people "want to eat only the freshest food." The other widely cited reason is a fear of food poisoning.
The chart below lists the most common excuses in order of popularity. Most of them have a tinge of privilege — where people feel comfortable throwing out food that's likely still edible, just because they can afford to.
This sort of fussiness over food, which has become increasingly prevalent here in the United States, can be a good thing. It has, after all, fostered a growing appreciation of fresh fruits and vegetables, which has in turn helped support smaller family farms, many of which have fallen victim to the modern day food system.
But caring too much about how green an avocado is or how many days it has been since a peach was first picked by a farmer can also be a very bad thing. especially when it encourages people to throw out perfectly edible things because they aren't fresh enough by their newfound standards.
The amount of food that goes to waste in the United States has ballooned in recent years. In 2012, the nearest year for which estimates are available, Americans threw out roughly 35 million tons of food, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That's almost 20 percent more food than Americans tossed out in 2000.
Roughly half of all food waste comes from families and other individuals (as opposed to businesses).
The problem is often attributed to the unreasonable standards we have set for foods sold commercially. Several studies have pointed to this very inefficiency, in which consumers mistake cautionary labels for full-stop warnings about foods.
This most recent research confirms that food poisoning is indeed on many people's minds. But it also suggests that food snobbery isn't helping either. There are legitimate reasons, after all, to throw away food. "I am above this less than ideal apple," however, isn't one of them.