How Consumer Habits Impact Food Waste: A Closer Look

The issue of food waste is an urgent problem that requires collective action. Consumers play a fundamental role in this challenge, as their consumption habits directly influence the amount of food wasted. To give an idea, households generated 53% of food waste across the entire food supply chain, accounting for 70 kg per inhabitant (source Eurostat).

Proper and efficient food storage at home is crucial in the fight against food waste. Proper management of the refrigerator and pantry can significantly contribute to food preservation. For example, placing fruits and vegetables on the lower shelves of the refrigerator can enhance their preservation since the temperature tends to be cooler in that area. Likewise, placing perishable items or items nearing expiration at the forefront can facilitate their consumption within the appropriate time frame preventing their waste. The importance of these aspects for the European consumers is under investigation in the SISTERS EU project survey. Preliminary results have highlighted non-compliance with expiration dates as the leading cause of domestic food waste among the countries involved in the study. But what exactly do we mean by “expiration date”?

In the European Regulation n.1169 of 2011, two different terms were introduced to refer to the expiration date: “best before” and “use by”. The former indicates the date until which the product maintains its optimum sensory quality, while the latter indicates the date by which the product should be consumed for maximum food safety (click HERE for more info). Therefore, a product that has passed the “best before” date can still be consumed safely. According to the preliminary results of SISTERS survey, 1 in 4 European consumers is unaware of this difference, leading to the potential disposal of edible items due to misinterpretation of the label. Were you aware of this difference in expiration dates?

Furthermore, food preparation at home plays a crucial role in the fight against food waste. The SISTERS survey revealed that food preparation is the second most significant cause of food waste among European consumers. Specifically, the critical issue lies in larger cooking quantities of food than necessary. Carefully assessing the actual amount of food needed can be fundamental in preventing food waste, as well as improving skills in managing leftovers or exploring tasty recipes that utilize them (click HERE for some hints). What about you? How do you manage your food leftovers?

Would you like to help us gain a better understanding of these aspects?