HCN News & Notes

USDA Launches App to Educate Consumers on Food Freshness

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has launched a new mobile app to educate consumers on ways to keep food fresh longer, thereby reducing food waste.

Developed by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, Cornell University, and the Food Marketing Institute, the FoodKeeper application is available for Android and Apple devices on Google Play and the App Store.

“Consumers actively using FoodKeeper will be able to retain and consume safe, viable food products that, without reassuring guidance, they may have once discarded,” David Fikes, FMI’s VP of consumer/community affairs and communications, said.

The FoodKeeper application offers storage advice about nearly 500 food and beverage items, including baby food, dairy products and eggs, meat, poultry, produce, and seafood. The app includes a calendar component that consumers can use to enter the purchase date of various foods and beverages. They will receive notifications when products are nearing the end of their recommended storage date.

Among other features, the app provides information about preventing foodborne illness and safe handling, storage, and preparation of meat, poultry, and egg products.

“While food-date labels provide some guidance, consumer interpretation of those labels varies widely, and the FoodKeeper provides yet another resource for consumers seeking to avoid prematurely discarding safe, quality foods,” said Fikes.

Every year, billions of pounds of food go to waste in the U.S. because consumers are not sure of its quality or safety, according to the USDA, which estimates that 21{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} of the available food in the U.S. goes uneaten at the consumer level. In total, 36 pounds of food per person is wasted each month at the retail and consumer levels.

“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,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “This can help consumers save money and reduce the amount of safe food going to landfills.”

The application is part of a larger effort between USDA and the Environmental Protection Agency called the U.S. Food Waste Challenge. Launched in 2013, the challenge calls on farms, food manufacturers, supermarkets, and other members of the food chain to reduce food waste.

The FoodKeeper was originally published as a brochure in 1994, then updated in 2002 and 2014.