Amazon’s Alexa Can Help Curb Your Food Waste (Video)

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By Cooking Panda

Amazon’s Alexa is not just your personal assistant, she’s now your food expert.

Ad Council and the National Resources Defense Council have joined forces to educate and fight against food waste. The Save The Food campaign video (below) shows how practical Alexa can be around the kitchen. The video starts with a couple casually hanging out in the kitchen, where her significant other looks on in confusion at an asparagus-filled vase.

“Why on Earth would you fill a vase with asparagus?” I wondered aloud.

As if she broke the fourth wall, the woman replies, “Hey Alexa, ask Save The Food how to store asparagus.”

Alexa, the cube-shaped know-it-all quickly answers, “To last as long as possible, asparagus is best stored in a vase with water in the fridge, like flowers.”

Ad Council and National Resources Defense Council are the geniuses behind Alexa’s new “Skill” (the appropriately named apps that run on Amazon Echo). With a quick download, you can ask Alexa anything about expiration dates, storing and shelf life of most produce. The creators of the Save the Food campaign developed Alexa’s new skill in response to a growing epidemic of food waste. And not just expired or rotten food — perfectly edible produce.

Last year, it was estimated that Americans throw away half of the food they buy each year, amounting to an alarming $1,500 annually for the average American family. That’s one half of the nation’s food down the garbage shoot.

But with this new skill, Alexa will educate millions of American families on the proper way to store produce for optimal freshness and longevity. The Save The Food Campaign hopes to reduce this epidemic and save American families some money in the process.

So if you’ve got apples sitting in the fridge, for perhaps a bit too long for comfort, ask Alexa what she thinks about it. Or that overripe avocado, once a fresh green, now a soiled brown … go ask Alexa! So far, Amazon customers are loving it, saying that they are “pleasantly surprised” at how helpful she is.

Sources: Grubstreet, MultiVu, Ad Council/Youtube / Featured Image: Guillermo Fernandes/Flickr

Tags: Alexa Skill, Amazon Alexa, food waste
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What Happens To All Those Record-Breaking Giant Foods?

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By Cooking Panda

Have you ever seen an article about some massive, record-breaking food, thought it was pretty amusing for two seconds, and then wondered what on earth happened to that enormous quantity of food? You are not alone.

In fact, it’s one of the most asked questions posed to Guinness World Records, according to Today I Found Out. It’s good to know that those of us who are fond of browsing the internet’s vast selection of stories about giant pizzas and colossal ice cream cones do, in fact, have an active environmental conscience.

Luckily, people like us can sleep soundly at night knowing that Guinness does indeed have an anti-waste policy regarding gigantic amounts of food. In order for such records to be officially recognized, the food must be consumed or distributed for consumption, the Guinness website details.

The handy stipulation prevents perfectly good — and often tasty — food from going to waste. And if companies choose to sell their massive foods, it also allows them to earn back some of the money they spend on the expensive publicity stunts. 

In other cases, the rule isn’t so effective at stopping food squandering.

Since record-breaking foods have to be edible in order to earn a Guinness title, foods that are deemed unsafe to eat may be ineligible, no matter their size. Organizers of an attempt to make the world’s largest bowl of fried rice learned that the hard way when they were disqualified for their inedible dish, which a video showed had been stepped upon by several of the volunteers as they shoveled it into a dump truck, according to Huffington Post. The organizers were criticized for wasting food, though they claimed it was used as pig feed.

Luckily, most attempts at cooking record-breaking foods seem to lead to very full bellies. When The Rock made the world’s largest seven-layer chip dip, for example, the fish tank of 540 pounds of refried beans, sour cream, cheese, guacamole, tomatoes, green onions and black olives was donated to a homeless shelter. 

Want to set out to create your own Guinness-worthy dish? As long as it’s safe for consumption and you send it to me so I may consume it, you have official approval.

Sources: Today I Found Out, The Huffington Post / Photo credit: U.S. Department of Defense

Tags: food waste, giant foods, Guinness World Records
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Salt And Straw Is Going To Serve Garbage Ice Cream

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By Cooking Panda

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting Salt & Straw’s luxurious frozen treats, chances are you’d never ever turn down ice cream from them — even if it’s trash ice cream.

And that is exactly what they are making. For a limited time, the deities behind the Portland, Oregon-based ice cream will be churning their finest from … garbage.

According to Eater, Salt & Straw, which also has locations in California, is teaming up with Urban Gleaners, a business that redistributes surplus food that is perfectly good but would end up in the trash otherwise.

“We were really struck by the idea that we waste 40 percent of our food in the United States, and that children in our cities are going hungry,” Salt & Straw founder Kim Malek told Fast Company in March. “If we were able to use that food, we could wipe out hunger.”

In June, the West Coast company’s Portland locations will serve up flavors like Urban Gleaners’ Toasted Baguette PB and J, which uses sweet cream, bread extraction, chocolate peanut butter and a swirl of jam made from surplus berries. Other trash flavors include Ancient Heritage’s Lemon Curd and Whey, Celery Root and Strawberry Celery Leaf Jam from Sauvie Island Organics, Breakside Brewery’s Spent Grains and Bacon S’mores and Bourbon Distilled Cherries Ambrosia, the latter of which is vegan.

“We thought: What if we use our menu in June to shine a light on those agencies and tell their story, and see if we can get our customers and the community at large to be more aware of and supportive of these organizations and the work that they’re doing,” Malek told Fast Company. “We want to show that an apple might be kind of ugly, but that doesn’t mean it’s not perfectly tasty and should be thrown away. We could use it.”

The ice cream makers are hoping to shine a light on the fact that people waste approximately a third of the world’s food. Their project is estimated to save 2,000 pounds of that.

Garbage never tasted so good.

Sources: Eater, Fast Company / Photo Credit: Pexels

Tags: food waste, ice cream, ice cream from trash, salt and straw, sustainable ice cream
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America’s Food Waste Could Feed 84% Of The Country (Video)

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By Cooking Panda

Food waste is a known problem throughout America. But, do we really understand just how big of a problem it is?

USA Today reports that Americans throw away billions of pounds of food each year, which amounts to enough food to feed millions of people. One Johns Hopkins University researcher even said that the amount of food we’ve wasted could provide a 2,000-calorie diet to 84 percent of the world’s population. That is staggering information.

In the YouTube video below, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for a Livable Future explain what this means as far as how many nutrients are being wasted.

I don’t know about you, but the idea that we could be feeding 74 million women of the world their recommended fiber intake with just what we throw away leaves me feeling a little guilty. It also has me wondering how nutritious the food items are that we’re actually eating. If most of what we throw away is highly nutritious, that must mean that what we are eating is not.

“Wasted food is a very serious issue at this point,” said Roni Neff, a program director at the Johns Hopkins University Center for a Livable Future. “We’re throwing away so much money and so many resources and so much potential nutrients that can make our lives better.”

This is a sad truth and a hard pill to swallow for many of us. It’s likely the fact that food is relatively easy to come by in this country that makes it so easy for us to throw it away without a second thought. We should really stop and think, though, about those nutrients that the majority of the population is thought to be missing out on. Dietary fiber, for example, or potassium, or vitamins A and D? Even I know I don’t get enough vitamin D. Potassium is in bananas, though, and vitamin A is in lots of veggies, which means those are things we’re probably tossing out the most.

If anything, this study tells us to be more conscious and aware of what we are throwing away. Not only is it money, but it’s nutrients that we need!

Sources: USA TodayJohns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future / Photo Credit: Trace Nietert/Flickr

Tags: food waste, healthy food, Nutrition, Vitamins
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Could This Be The Technology To Keep Food Fresh Longer?

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By Cooking Panda

Food waste is sadly out of hand in nations where food is readily available, and we all know it’s an issue. But when it comes to doing something about it most of us are at a loss. One company in London has a product that may just help everyone out.

The product is appropriately named the “It’s Fresh! filter.” According to its website, the filter (which comes in the form of transit sheets, pads or labels) absorbs and locks in ethylene, the ripening hormone emitted by fresh produce. After the filter is inserted in the pack with the produce, it immediately begins absorbing the ethylene. It’s Fresh! calls the effect of the filter a “Freshasphere,” meaning that it creates an atmospheric barrier around fruit and vegetables to keep them from going bad.

The filters can be used all the way from the beginning of the supply cycle, being packed in with the produce until it makes its way all the way into the home of the consumer.   

One London restaurant is putting this innovative new product to use already. Evening Standard reports that popular London mini-chain Canteen has been using the spongy filter to slow the ripening of fruit and vegetables at the restaurant, and is urging other restaurants to follow their example. The product is said to be able to extend the shelf-life of our favorite fruit and veggies by up to four days! This can make a huge difference in curbing food waste and makes the entire process of distributing produce more practical.

The co-founder of the Canteen restaurant says that it’s up to the entire food industry to address the growing concern of food waste. “For every meal eaten in a UK restaurant, nearly half a kilo of food is wasted — through preparation, spoilage and what’s left behind on the plate.”

The number sounds shocking, but it shouldn’t be. Think about how much food you personally buy and end up throwing out. The same goes for restaurants, but on a much larger scale. “Reducing food waste makes business and ethical sense for restaurants,” said Andrew Stephen, chief executive of the Sustainable Restaurant Association, per Evening Standard. 

Using It’s Fresh! filters has helped Canteen cut down on food waste without changing the way their business operates. Hopefully, other restaurants will see how much of a positive impact this product can make and will follow suit.

Sources: It's Fresh!, Evening Standard / Photo Credit: Fruits and Veggies More Matters/Instagram

Tags: Canteen, food waste, fruits and vegetables, It's Fresh!, produce, UK
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Here’s Why Your Food’s Use-By Dates Don’t Matter

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By Cooking Panda

One of the most frustrating things that happens to us on the regular happens in our kitchen.

We open up our refrigerator, totally excited to chow down on one of our favorite snacks or meals — perhaps an individual-serving carton of yogurt that we’ve been waiting to top with some fresh berries, or a glass of soy milk to help make our morning oats extra luxurious — only for that big glaring SELL BY or USE BY date to shatter our dreams.

But what if those expiration dates are actually … outdated?

Apparently, The Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute seem to think that expiry dates on food are not only misleading (and maybe even downright wrong), but they tend to contribute to food waste because they encourage buyers to toss out their food, even though it may still be perfectly safe to eat.

Basically, those labels indicate just how fresh and high in quality your food is when you open and eat it. They exist to protect the reputations of company’s products, but once an expiry day has passed, the misconception is that your food is suddenly dangerous.

Guess what, folks? It isn’t. It probably just isn’t at its peak freshness and taste levels, which could make a company cranky. Companies want you to eat their food in its best most optimal state!

Therefore, GMA and FMI are trying to convince companies to change their labeling game altogether, and begin using labels like “Best if used by” (followed by a particular date), and then a “Use by” date for products that actually will begin to become more dangerous to consume after a certain amount of time has passed.

As NPR reports, expiration dates on food are actually not required by any federal law; however, even though loads of foods go stale (think some bread products) or even begin to go sour (think of that old carton of milk in your fridge), they aren’t necessarily hazardous to your health. You just probably don’t really want to eat them for pleasure anymore.

Source: NPR / Photo Credit: Britty/Instagram

Tags: expiration date, food waste, sell by, spoiled food, use by
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Gordon Ramsay To Turn Food Waste Into Amazing Meals

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By Cooking Panda

Yas, Gordon, you cranky ol’ chef, you!

In a totally amazing and inspirational move, Gordon Ramsay, along with fellow Michelin-starred British chefs Tom Kerridge and Clare Smyth, has decided to cook with Dan Barber, a New York Michelin-starred chef, at a pop-up restaurant that aims to use food that was destined for the trash to make amazing, delicious meals and even high tea.

The pop-up is going to be called wastED London, according to Bloomberg, and is expected to run from Feb. 24 to April 2, 2017. The menu will feature quirky but delightful dishes from $18 and up that are designed specifically to remind diners that food waste is a huge issue, and one that we have the power to counteract, with a little practice and dedication.

Barber is well known in upstate New York for his restaurant called Blue Hill at Stone Barns; people wait months to eat at his restaurant, which was named best restaurant in America 2016, according to Bloomberg. Therefore, expectations are high for this new London venture, which will be held on a rooftop site at a department store called Selfridges.

“It’s all very exciting,” Bloomberg reports Barber as saying in an interview. “To put together a menu in a different city is to be forced to learn about its history and its agricultural realities. And the food scene in London is very vibrant.

“I am in favor of expanding the definition of what is waste food. We get to choose what’s for dinner when really we need a pattern of eating that supports a landscape.”

wastED London is expected to serve an a la carte menu, and the offerings could range from your standard fare to things that are a little less customary — think bruised vegetables, or even live ants, fish heads, stale bread, or other items that don’t sound immediately appetizing but can transform into something delightful with a little attention and love.

Interested in trying your luck to book a seat at the restaurant? Tickets are expected to be hard to get, but you can try and secure a reservation online here.

Sources: Bloomberg, wastED London / Photo Credit: Daniel Krieger for Bloomberg

Tags: dan barber, food waste, gordon ramsay, pop up, wastED
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This Wedding Banquet Served Food Destined For The Trash

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By Cooking Panda

Some things are meant to last for eternity, and some things are meant to be trashed.

One environmentally conscious couple, however, used their wedding — a ceremony meant to celebrate two people’s undying commitment to each other — to celebrate waste as well.

Per Metro, Nikki Pope and Cate Bauer recently held a wedding reception feast for their guests, which isn’t an unusual thing to do… except their feast was made entirely with food that was on its way to the garbage.

Their wedding is being called Manchester’s first “junk food wedding” precisely because the ingredients were all rescued by The Real Junk Food Project, which is an organization that rescues food that’s on its path from the supermarket to the trash in a bid to cut food waste.

Pope and Bauer chose not to inform their 110 guests until after the banquet was over that the food they were dining on — a Middle Eastern-style mezzo dinner prepared by award-winning chef Mary-Ellen McTague — had been originally destined for waste.

“We’re very aware that when people hear about the Real Junk Food Project, they could be really put off our food,” Pope told BBC Inside Out North West, according to Metro.

“I think most people will understand that if we were worried about it, we wouldn’t take a risk at our wedding.

“We’re really committed to the project and we’re really committed to helping them get it right.“

Added Great British Menu guest McTague: “I was really surprised by how much food we’re losing every week to waste from supermarkets — that was a real shocker to me, I didn’t realize it was that much.“

According to Metro, the guests were stunned and impressed by the quality of the meal after the truth was revealed. Seeing as UK supermarkets currently waste about $284 million of food per year (while an additional 8 million people in the country experience food poverty), hopefully their positive experience with the organization spurred them to reconsider recycling food, and inspired them to brainstorm different ways they too could cut down on their individual waste.

Source: Metro / Photo credit: The Green Balloon Media Group/Instagram

Tags: food waste, real junk food project, recycled food, wedding banquet
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Can You Guess Which States Waste The Most Money On Food?

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By Cooking Panda

Come on, America. We’re better than this!

By this point, it’s pretty common knowledge that the United States has a food waste problem. But did you know that the issue is not just an ecological one, but an economic one too? And even if you did know, is that knowledge guilting you into changing your habits?

According to a recent survey of 2,000 people conducted by hloom, a staggeringly large amount of people actually believe that food contributes the most largely to their financial woes.

Check out this chart:

As you can see, people say they are totally willing to cut back on dining out expenses; however, they are not willing to compromise on throwing out expired foods or wasting money on groceries.

It turns out that Americans each throw out between about $240 and $280-worth of food per year, with some states being much more guilty of this habit than others. The survey also showed that states with a higher ratio of people who dine out also contribute more to food waste.

The takeaway, of course, is to start being accountable. We all need to begin self-educating, and learning what the dates on our food really mean. Unfortunately, sell-by, best-by, and other food labels are often confusing, and make the task of ascertaining whether or not food is good or spoiled more difficult, but some common sense and research goes a long way.

Additionally, hloom suggests making some small changes, like going out for one fewer restaurant meal a week (which saves over $600 a year), and kicking the habit of buying bottled water, which is bad for the environment and also much more costly than tap water.

Source: hloom / Photo credit: Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization

Tags: economic, food waste, survey, take out
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Too Good To Go: New App Lets You Buy Food For Cheap That Restaurants Would Otherwise Waste

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By Cooking Panda

By now, it’s pretty common knowledge that the world, in general, has a problem: a food wasting problem. However, a food app that launched in several U.K. cities this year seeks to address that problem, by providing local users a list of restaurants that are selling food they would otherwise have tossed — for much, much cheaper.

According to the Telegraph, the app, called Too Good To Go, is for iOS and Android, and allows users to pay with a credit card to go and collect food from certain restaurants within a specific time allotment (e.g., as a restaurant is closing, or after a lunch or dinner rush).

The food in question is, of course, nutritious and edible, and safe to eat — however, without the app, it otherwise would have been tossed out, contributing to what the Telegraph reports as an estimated 15 million metric tons of produce wasted in the U.K. every year.

“Food waste just seems like one of the dumbest problems we have in this world,” TGTG co-founder James Crummie told Next Web. While helping bolster restaurant business sales is an obvious benefit of the app, the focus is more on cutting down on food waste.

“The restaurant industry is wasting about 600,000 [metric tons] of food each year, and in the U.K. alone there are one million people on emergency food parcels from food banks,” Crummie continued. “Why do we have these two massive social issues that are completely connected, yet there is not much going on to address them?”

For now, the TGTG app, which was created by a group of friends in Denmark, has been launched in the U.K. and embraced in Brighton, Leeds, London and Manchester.

While Too Good To Go does take a small fee from its participating restaurants, the Telegraph reports that it reinvests its income into expanding the project.

Sources: TelegraphToo Good To Go, Next Web / Photo credits: Too Good To Go 

Tags: apps, food waste, restaurant, too good to go
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New Italian Law Helps Put The Kibosh On Nation’s Food Waste

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By Cooking Panda

A bill aiming to eliminate 1 million tons of waste from Italy’s annual estimated 5-million ton output has been passed into law.

The bill, which was backed by 181 senators (with 2 against and 16 abstaining) has been widely praised, with Agriculture Minister Maurizio Martina even declaring it as “one of the most beautiful and practical legacies” of the Expo Milano 2015 international exhibition, according to the BBC. 

The exhibition focused on tackling hunger and food waste worldwide — a pertinent topic for Italy, considering that the cost of food wasted amounts to more than $13.4 billion per year for Italian businesses and households, according to ministers.

Of course, Italy is only one country; the problem is worldwide, and especially bad in Europe.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations suggests that around one third of our world’s food may be wasted worldwide — however, that figure rises to a staggering 40% in Europe.

“The food currently wasted in Europe could feed 200 million people,” the FAO states.

The new bill includes drafts that seek to help make donating food not only easier (there were some who worried about violating health and safety laws by donating food that was technically past its “sell-by” date, but still perfectly healthy and nutritious), but also encourages farmers to give away their unsold produce to charities without worrying about losing money.

Additionally, the BBC reports that the Agricultural Ministry will spend more than $1.1 million researching how to revolutionize packaging foods, in order to prevent spoilage during transit, and ultimately extend shelf life. An informational campaign for the public aiming to reduce food wastage will also be released.

Lastly, “family bags” (popularly known as those “doggy bags” us Americans take home if we’re unable to finish our entire meal at a restaurant) will be introduced to Italian culture. While it is expected in many parts of the world to be able to save your leftovers after a meal, the practice has so far been uncommon in Italy — until now. A $1.1 million campaign will back a new “family bag” scheme.

Congratulations and good luck, Italy!

Sources: BBC, FAO / Photo credit: Yes Health

Tags: family bag, food waste, italy, leftovers
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Here’s Why These People Paid $125 To Eat Dinner In A Dumpster

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By Cooking Panda

Struggling to find a place to take your first date? You know, the one who self-describes as “quirky” and “adventurous” on Tinder? Do I have the place for you…

Meet the Salvage Supperclub. In some of the world’s top cosmopolitan cities (think Brooklyn and San Francisco), foodies are shelling out at least $80 to get served past-its-prime food — in a dumpster.

 

 

Avid Waste Systems x avid diners #salvagesupperclub #eateverything

A photo posted by Haya Shaath (@thehappybox) on Apr 14, 2014 at 5:53am PDT

 

While some people tend to pay the big bucks for a more conventional dining experience (the kind that takes place in an actual restaurant, with fresh ingredients), the Salvage Supperclub offers diners:

  1. the chance to eat in a dumpster (albeit a thoroughly cleaned and adorned one) as well as
  2. a unique experience for a good cause. The purpose is to raise awareness about food waste, and profits from the Salvage Supperclub events are donated to charities fighting to end waste and hunger.

According to NPR, Salvage Supperclub is the design of Josh Treuhaft, who works as a designer  with a focus on sustainability. The events have thus far taken place in Berkley, Brooklyn, California and San Francisco, with menus comprised of ingredients that would have otherwise been thrown away (despite the fact that it is still safe to eat, as well as nutritious).

“The idea behind this multi-course, veg-forward tasting menu is for eaters to see the incredible potential many of us fail to see in our food,” says Treuhaft, who is originally from New York.

“I want to engage people and get them excited about food waste prevention, so we send less food to the landfill or compost,” he says to NPR. “The goal here is to broaden the scope of what is edible.”

“I hope my guests come away from my dinners with a new outlook on how they’re using and not using the food in their kitchens,” says chef Pesha Perlsweig, who executed the menu at a recent San Francisco event.

According to NPR, her menu includes: wilted basil, bruised plums, past-their-prime tomatoes, vegetable pulp, surplus squash, whole favas (tough outer layer included), garbanzo bean water, dairy whey, sweet potato skins and overripe, peel-on bananas.

 

 

Let’s do this! #salvagesupperclub

A photo posted by James Grady (@jmsgrady) on Jun 26, 2016 at 7:46pm PDT

 

“It makes me happy to hear that a former guest made carrot top pesto or was inspired by a dish of mine. Change is hard. If I can move the dial, however small, in the right direction, then I feel like I’ve done my job.”

Source: NPR, James Grady/Instagram / Image credits: Haya Shaath/Instagram, Andrew Hinderaker via NPR, Field Work In Stilettos

Tags: concept, food waste, Salvage Supperclub, sustainability
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Wasted: America Knows It Has A Problem, But Doesn’t Know How To Stop Wasting Food

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By Cooking Panda

Time for your daily dose of depressing news!

According to survey data, America wastes approximately $160 billion of food each year, and while Americans admit to knowing about their waste output, and to feeling guilty about it, they also admit not to feeling bad enough to, you know… do anything about it.

Per the new PLOS ONE survey released last week, 77 percent of respondents in a poll of 500 people representative of the American population stated that they do feel guilty when wasting food (and no wonder — the NRDC reports that we waste an estimated 40 percent of the food we produce each year). However, there seems to be some confusion among Americans: As it turns out, we’re not quite sure why we should feel guilty.

While 58 percent of respondents affirmed that they believed food waste wasn’t good for the environment (only 58%? Come on, folks), an even scantier 42 percent believe food waste is a major source of squandered money.

The above numbers came as a shock to Brian Roe, a professor of agricultural marketing and policy at Ohio State University and the study’s co-author.

“Our intuition is that respondents might think that throwing away food is environmentally benign because food is organic and naturally occurring,” Roe wrote via email to the Huffington Post, “and they haven’t quite connected the dots that food that goes to a landfill produces methane, which has substantial environmental impacts and that all the energy and resources that went into creating the wasted food are essentially now useless.”

Respondents also demonstrated a disconnect between their guilt over food waste and their beliefs that they could do anything to change it.

A surprising 42 percent of respondents alleged that they don’t have enough time to worry about their food waste, and 51 percent felt it would simply put them out too much to figure out how to reduce food waste in their homes. Furthermore, it turns out we all believe that the figures are bad, but that we’re not the worst offenders: 87 percent of respondents claimed they believe that similar households to their own throw out more food than they do.

While these numbers seem discouraging, according to Dana Gunders, a food-waste expert at the National Resources Defense Council, any progress is good progress. Four years ago, “nobody was talking about the issue and nobody was thinking about it,” she told Bloomberg. “To have over half the population think food waste is a serious problem is a tremendous achievement in terms of public awareness.”

Sources:  PLOS ONE, NRDC, Huffington Post, Bloomberg / Photo credit: Modern Farmer

Tags: America, food, food waste, survey
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Science Has Created The Perfect Tomato: One That Doesn’t Wither

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By Cooking Panda

Food waste statistics in America can be depressing.

Some folks are trying to pass laws that help inform Americans about what expiry dates actually indicate, in the hopes that we’ll all stop tossing out healthy food just because of its label. Additionally, farmers have reported that massive amounts of perfectly serviceable food never even makes it to our grocery stores — never mind our plates — simply because it doesn’t look pretty enough for our unreasonable standards.

Yikes.

Perhaps in an attempt to help ameliorate our waste output, a new paper published this week in the journal Nature Biotechnology reports that scientists have created an indestructible (well… sort of) version of a tomato that apparently takes a much longer time to wither or show signs of discoloration.

“Controlling the rate of softening to extend shelf life was a key target for researchers engineering genetically modified (GM) tomatoes in the 1990s, but only modest improvements were achieved,” reads the paper. “Hybrids grown nowadays contain ‘non-ripening mutations’ that slow ripening and improve shelf life, but adversely affect flavor and color. We report substantial, targeted control of tomato softening, without affecting other aspects of ripening, by silencing a gene encoding a pectate lyase.”

Essentially, the team of scientists managed to neutralize a kind of enzyme that destroys the walls of cells, thus enabling them to engineer this new, mighty tomato. Even though the tomato remains unnaturally firm for longer, it still allegedly contains equivalent amounts of molecules tied to color, smell and taste.

Remember, folks: There are currently no studies that connect GMOs to any true health risks; in fact, 16 major international science organizations (and that includes the American Medical Association and the National Academy of Sciences) have reported that we need not avoid consuming current GMOs.

Despite all that, these particular tomatoes are still unlikely ever to make it to grocery stores, according to what a USDA molecular biologist told the journal (per Grub Street). While the shelf life was extended, it would simply cost too much to clear all of the regulatory hurdles to currently justify selling the tomatoes. The molecular biologist hopes that scientists will use this research as a sort of guide for how to optimize texture when cross-breeding varieties in the future.

Sources: Nature, Genetic Literacy Project, Grub Street / Photo credit: Bonnie Plants

Tags: food waste, GMO, shelf life, tomato, tomatoes
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Celebrate Earth Day By Cutting Down On Food Waste

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By Cooking Panda

Did you know that Americans waste up to 40 percent of their food, with the average family of four racking up a total of $2,275 in food waste per year?

In honor of Earth Day, here are some easy ways to minimize your food trash:

1. Plan your meals.

Figure out what you’re going to cook for the week, make a grocery list before shopping, and try to use up all of your ingredients.

2. Shop smarter at the salad bar.

Don’t buy more than you need. If you need only a small amount of a certain vegetable and know you won’t use the whole bag they try to force on you in the grocery store, hit up a salad bar and take only what you need.

3. Use or freeze your leftovers.

One of the best parts of roasting a chicken is that you get the base for several days’ worth of meals, right? Take it a step further.

4. Use FoodKeeper.

The USDA released an app that shows users the best way to store their food so it lasts the longest, and it will tell you exactly how long you can keep it for. Plan accordingly.

5. Compost.

Not only does compost do wonders to fertilize your yard by providing nutrients that encourage plant growth, but it is also a good way to make use of your food scraps. Here’s everything you need to know about composting.

6. Grow your own herbs.

Vegetable gardens are awesome, but what if you live in an apartment? Don’t worry, you can grow herbs indoors with limited space. It sure beats paying a lot of money for mint at the supermarket and not even using it all. Here’s how to get started.

7. Donate your leftovers.

The logistics depend on where you live, but the idea is pretty simple: If you aren’t going to eat it anyway, why not help out someone who desperately needs dinner? Find a food donation program here.

Now that you have some tricks up your sleeve to reduce your food waste, why not make this delicious dessert in honor of Earth Day? Kids and adults alike will love these “dirt cups.”

Recipe here.

Sources: Whole Foods, Food Safety News / Photo credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture/Flickr

Tags: dirt cup recipe, Earth Day, food waste, how to keep your food longer, sustainability
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