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  May 25, 2016
  Dear Wasted Food Dude…
  May Happenings
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Jonathan Bloom: thought leader, speaker and consultant on food waste. He is the author of American Wasteland and creator of Send Jonathan any food waste related questions — from the sublime to the ridiculous to the rotten.  

Dear Wasted Food Dude,
I'm so confused about expiration dates. There are a million different terms and figuring out what they mean is wicked hard. Is there really a difference between any of the terms? Which ones carry the most weight? My husband scoffs at all expiration dates. I really swear he looks forward to eating food after its date. I'm worried he is going to get sick and I've started to secretly throw away certain foods so he doesn't devour them. Who's in the right here?
Julie R, Concord, NH

Hi Julie. I hate to quibble over semantics — oh, wait, no I don't — but let's stop saying 'expiration dates.' Because that's not what they are. Food doesn't expire. It doesn't die at midnight on the date stamped on its package. Instead, it slowly passes from optimal to inedible. And that date stamped on the package — no matter what words precede it — tends to fall much closer to edible.

Second quibble — compost that food instead of throwing it out. I'm sure that's what you meant when you wrote 'throw away.' Organic waste simply does not belong in landfills. If you have any questions there, pick up a copy of BioCycle.

imageNow, let's get to the matter at hand: Date labels speak to quality, not food safety.* Manufacturers put that date on their products to indicate when we should eat them before the texture or taste start to wane. And they do so voluntarily — the only item required by federal law to have a date is infant formula. Most foods usually last beyond the date label. But they can also go bad before that date. That's why it's best to rely on your senses — of smell, sight and taste.

As you say, the variety of terminology is a major problem here. There are just so many different terms, and I won't even dignify them by writing their names. All you really need to know is that they all speak to quality and taste. To cut through the clutter, there is now a bill circulating through Washington, D.C. (see "Food Date Labeling Act" below), aimed at standardizing the terminology. But the phrase that really cuts through the noise and that I wish was the norm comes from the Ad Council's Save The Food public service campaign: "Best If Used." Given our wasteful ways, we'd be better served by a nudge to actually eat our food than a quality date that prompts many to send it directly to the compost pile.

In each household there's usually one Date Label Doubter and one Spoiled Food Fretter. You're both playing your roles perfectly. Who's in the right? I would never interfere in this kind of marital dispute, but I will say that it's usually bad to be throwing food away. Also, the Date Label Doubter is totally in the right.

If you want to learn more about this vexing topic, watch this efficient, 5-minute film on the topic called Expired. If you want to become an instant expert, read The Dating Game. And if you want to get a very funny take on the subject, watch this Seinfeld bit on how milk producers really determine the date label.

All the Best (By),
*By reading this article, you consent to not sue this Dude if you get sick from eating something past its date. Seriously, dude — trust your senses.

MAY Happenings

Food Date Labeling Act. Congresswoman Chellie Pingree of Maine, who introduced the Food Recovery Act of 2015 last December, and Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut introduced The Food Date Labeling Act on May 18. The bill establishes a uniform national system for date labeling that clearly distinguishes between foods that bear a label indicating peak quality, from foods that bear a label indicating they may become unsafe to consume past the date. This bill would also ensure that food is allowed to be sold or donated after its quality date, and educate consumers about the meaning of new labels so that they can make better economic and safety decisions. 

imageCongressional Hearing: Food Waste From Field To Table. You may be reading this edition of BioCycle Food Recycling News when the House Committee on Agriculture holds a public hearing (May 25 at 10:00 am) that focuses on food waste reduction in the U.S. Witnesses include: Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (Panel 1) (see above). The second panel includes Dana Gunders, Senior Scientist, Food & Agriculture Program, National Resources Defense Council; Jesse Fink, Managing Director, Mission Point, Norwalk, CT; John Oxford, President and CEO, L&M Companies, Raleigh, NC; Meghan Stasz, Senior Director, Sustainability, Grocery Manufacturers Association, Washington, DC; Diana Aviv, CEO, Feeding America,Chicago, IL; and Emily Broad Leib, Director, Food Law and Policy Clinic, Harvard Law School, Jamaica Plain, MA. Other events on May 25 highlighting food waste reduction actions are being held, including a dinner hosted by Food Policy Action Education Fund, where recovered food dishes conceived by D.C. area chefs will be served.

Food Donation Guidance In Vermont. New guidance for donation from businesses and institutions in Vermont, and for share tables at K-12 schools, was released today by the Vermont Agency of Education, Vermont Department of Health, and the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources. A link to the guidance documents in is a blog by John Williamson of Food Rescue.

imageClimate Change and Urban Food System Resilience: Food, Climate Change And The City, a Policy Perspective Paper released in May 2016 by the Climate Change Urban Food Initiative (CCUF) and the United Nations Environment Program, offers concrete steps to build sustainable, climate resilient urban food systems. An urban food system "includes all the elements relating to the production, processing, distribution, preparation, consumption and waste disposal involved in the provision and consumption of food for urban populations," explains the paper, and is very vulnerable to climate change impacts including flooding, and transportation, power and wastewater management disruptions. "Our urban food systems need urgent attention to ensure they will be able to supply food that meets the nutritional needs of their future populations. This will require holistic systems-based approaches to the development of urban policies and actions that consider food systems both as a major contributor to climate change as well as a significant feature of resilience and adaptation." Among the recommendations is to Develop Urban Food System Resilience Plans that "include urban agriculture and preservation of good quality agricultural land to ensure a diversity of growing areas.

Trending In BioCycle

imageCreating Jobs — And Feeding Atlanta Falcon Fans. When Mercedes-Benz Stadium (MBS), the new home of the Atlanta Falcons (starting in 2017), issued an RFP for a food service provider, one proposal included establishment of a culinary arts class to train neighborhood residents for jobs as chefs at MBS as well as other venues. That provider, Levy Restaurants, won the bid and offers a culinary course through Westside Works, a job training program that services the Westside neighborhood of Atlanta where the stadium is located. The 8-week course introduces students to kitchen safety protocols, international cuisine, baking and pastry, and restaurant simulations. "The program finishes with a food certification exam administered by Levy Restaurants that tests the students in food safety and handling," explains Juliet Peters, Culinary Instructor who designed the class that started about 2 years ago. "So far, 100 percent of the students are placed with employment, either with Levy Restaurants or at other dining establishments in metro Atlanta. The certification pass rate is close to 90 percent, as some students struggle with literacy." Westside Works also has a construction job training program. A construction team from the class built a garden bed at MBS that the culinary students tend. "All the produce is used in the class," adds Peters. Look for the article on "Power Of Partnerships In Sports Greening" — coming in the June issue of BioCycle.

imagePlate To Garden Compost Program. "Plate to Garden Compost," created by the Minnesota Composting Council in partnership with organizations such as Carver County, Minnesota, is designed to give schools and organizations participating in a source separated organics collection program (food scraps, food-soiled paper and compostable bioplastics), an opportunity to close the loop by holding a fundraiser to sell the finished compost. An average sized Plate to Garden event (10 cubic yards of compost or 500 bags) can expect to earn between $1,000 and $1,500 after expenses are paid. The events also provide educational opportunities on the importance of organics recycling, benefits of compost and preventing contamination when source separating organics for composting.

imageRust Belt Riders A Cog In Food System Wheel. Cleveland, Ohio-based Rust Belt Riders (RBR) was born out of the depleted soils in new community gardens in and around Cleveland. Compost was identified as a "cure," which in turn led to the need for feedstocks to make compost. RBR began an organics collection service using bikes with custom-made trailers, and takes vegetative food scraps to Rid-All Partnerships, an urban farm, and several other sites, for composting. Last summer, in collaboration with Cleveland's Gordon Square Farmer's Market, it rolled out a residential dropoff service at the farmer's market. Residents can bring their vegetative food scraps to RBR at the farmer's market from June to September. For every two pounds of food scraps, residents can get a $1 voucher (up to $20) to spend at the farmer's market.

imageMaking Beer From Leftover Breads. A new beer in the United Kingdom, Toast Ale, is making inroads in the fight against food wastes. Founded by food activist Tristram Stuart, Toast Ale is made from bread crusts, unsold artisanal breads, and those thousands of unused ends of bread loaves. The brewers slice, toast and mash the bread to make breadcrumbs ready for the brewing process. All profits from the sale of Toast Ale will be dedicated to Feedback, a nonprofit founded by Stuart in 2009 that works with governments, businesses and others at a national and international level to catalyze change in social attitudes and demonstrate innovative solutions to tackle food waste.


16th Annual BioCycle Conference On Renewable Energy From Organics Recycling. Also The Official Conference
Of the American Biogas Council
Orlando, Florida
Caribe Royale Hotel
October 17, 18, 19, 20, 2016

Food Recovery Entrepreneurs Workshop
Harvard Law School, Cambridge, Massachusetts
June 27, 2016


Reduce & Recover: Save Food for People
Harvard Law School, Cambridge, Massachusetts
June 28-29, 2016

2016 Green Sports Alliance Summit
June 28-30, 2016
Houston, Texas

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