Each person wastes 36 pounds of food per month, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), which is aiming to reduce that number because it represents 21% of the total available food in the country.
Overly cautious expiration dates are to blame, according to one USDA official, who says in a video that some foods can last anywhere from 12 to 18 months past the date of expiration that's stamped on the package.
In an effort to cut down on food waste, the USDA joined forces with Cornell University and the Food Marketing Institute and created a new app called FoodKeeper to help you get the most out of what you buy at the grocery store.
FoodKeeper provides advice on how to properly store over 400 different food and beverage items -- this includes baby food -- in a way that helps to maximize their shelf life.
The app lets you search for timelines according to the product and storage method, revealing how long a banana, for example, will last in the pantry versus the refrigerator or freezer. With FoodKeeper, it's possible to set alerts in the days before your food will expire, reminding you to eat it before it goes to waste.
The app also provides cooking tips and safe-handling methods for meat, poultry and seafood to reduce foodborne illness. FoodKeeper, which is available for iOS and Android devices, is enabled for swiping and voice control and users can submit questions to a virtual representative.
Europe faces a similar quandary, with an estimated 100 million tons of food being wasted every year, according to the European Commission in Brussels. They similarly blame what they say are bogus expiration dates and a plan was drafted by the European Parliament to do away with expiration dates altogether.
Innovations are in order, and that's exactly what Slovegia Pakstaite, inventor of Bump Mark, had in mind when she developed her bioreactive food expiry label.
The decomposition process of food, while often invisible to the eye and undetectable to the nose, is demonstrated by subtle changes to the texture.
The Bump Mark label is filled with gelatin, which decays at the same rate as protein-based foods, eventually breaking down into a liquid. When the label is new, it will be smooth to touch, but if you feel bumps, that's the signal that the item has expired. Bump Mark won the UK's James Dyson Award in 2014.