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Americas: USDA releases app to help consumers reduce food waste

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The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has launched a food application that informs users on how to store food and beverages to maximize their freshness and quality.

Developed by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, with Cornell University and the Food Marketing Institute, the application helps users understand food storage, choose storage methods that extend the shelf life of their items.

Users will be able to keep items fresh longer than if they were not stored properly.

The FoodKeeper application offers users valuable storage advice about more than 400 food and beverage items, including various types of baby food, dairy products and eggs, meat, poultry, produce and seafood.

Every year, billions of pounds of food go to waste in the country because consumers are not sure of its quality or safety.

USDA estimates that 21% of the available food in the US goes uneaten at the consumer level.

The authority also estimates that at the retail and consumer level, 36 pounds of food per person is wasted each month.

“This application will help reduce food waste by showing users how to store foods properly, and reminding them to use items before they are likely to spoil,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

“This can help consumers save money and reduce the amount of safe food going to landfills.”

The application features include:

– Specific product pages for more than 400 items, enabling users storage timelines for the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry.

– Cooking tips for meat, poultry, seafood and egg products.

Cooking advice is offered to ensure users prepare these products in ways that eliminate foodborne bacteria.

– Calendar integration, which allows users to enter the purchase date for products and offers notifications when products are nearing the end of their recommended storage date.

– Users can search the application with swipe gestures or voice control.

– If a user has not found the information they are looking for about a product, they can submit a question to USDA using the ‘Ask Karen’ feature of the application.

‘Ask Karen’ is USDA’s 24/7 virtual representative.

The system provides information about preventing foodborne illness and safe food handling, storage, and preparation of meat, poultry, and egg products.

The application is part of a larger effort between USDA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency called the US Food Waste Challenge.

Launched in 2013, the Food Waste Challenge calls on participants across the food chain – farms, agricultural processors, food manufacturers, grocery stores, restaurants, universities, schools, and local governments – to join efforts to:

– Reduce food waste by improving product development, storage, shopping/ordering, marketing, labeling, and cooking methods;

– Recover food waste by connecting potential food donors to hunger relief organizations like food banks and pantries; and,

– Recycle food waste to feed animals or to create compost, bioenergy, and natural fertilizers.