It is alarming how much edible food is wasted in this country, much of it by
people with a misconception about its wholesomeness due to an expired date on the
package. These ubiquitous dates come in a variety of flavors: Use Through, Sell By,
Use By, etc. The public has been trained to faithfully and regularly cull out-of-date
products from their pantries and fridges, sending them often straight into landfills.
Many organizations, such as Feeding America, are actively partnering with major global food companies to provide aid. These industry players are committed
to donating wholesome products that might not meet strict customer standards.
Governmental agencies have also committed to aiding this cause. In 2013, the U.S.
Department of Agriculture (USDA), in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency, created the U.S. Food Waste Challenge. This initiative brings together
government, industry, academia and nonprofits with the goal of reducing 50 percent
of food waste in landfills by 2030.4 The mission revolves around the three Rs: Reducing
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; and Recycle
food waste into other product streams (animal
feed or compost). This partnership is making
inroads with thousands of participants. In
2016, USDA released new guidelines on date
labeling, encouraging the use of “Best if Used
By” to eliminate consumer confusion and
decrease the amount of wholesome product
that is needlessly discarded.
Congress is trying to take this a step further by creating two proposed pieces of
legislation—the Food Recovery Act and the Food Date Labeling Act. These would
offer possible solutions by reducing consumer confusion, simplify regulatory compliance for companies and cut supply chain and consumer waste.
6 Now that the
problem has gained strong attention, the industry can start making changes to stem
the flow of edible product into this country’s landfills.
The Integral Role of Sustainable Sourcing in Food Safety
There is a deep quandary around certain agricultural products, which are largely
sourced from developing regions. Items such as herbs, spices, coffee and palm oil
need a particular climate to grow in the quantities needed to satisfy consumer demand. Industry leaders have partnered with global outreach organizations, such as
the Rainforest Alliance, and fair trade initiatives to propagate education to these
developing areas. A report commissioned by the United Kingdom and Norwegian
governments found that agriculture is the biggest contributor to deforestation, causing up to 80 percent of losses worldwide.
Often, these areas of the world are largely rural and lack the strict agricultural
practices and processing standards that have become common for developed nations. Large corporations, which often depend on developing areas for their raw
agricultural materials, have gone so far as to incorporate a vertical sourcing system,
working firsthand with local growers and processors to ensure that their products are
being raised and processed in a controlled, responsible manner.
There is sometimes a lack of education among growers and misconceptions
abound, such as “a little pesticide/herbicide/fertilizer is good, more must be better.”
Some of these practices greatly increase the likelihood of contaminating product,
which is grown, harvested and often processed in these regions. These practices (in-
creased chemical use, lack of crop rotation and certain harvesting techniques) may
eventually lead to devastating harm to
the farms and surrounding country-
side. The vertical sourcing system has
greatly benefited the companies as well
as the local people by giving them the
knowledge and tools to become safer
and more efficient farmers; it has also
helped preserve sustainable agricultural
practices. Initiatives to protect and
preserve local resources will ensure that
there will be a sustainable supply of raw
materials for future generations to enjoy.
Another benefit to controlled sourcing has been less likelihood of food
fraud. Unfortunately, cases of large-scale
intentional adulteration have often
come from these rural areas where the
people are so dependent on crop yields
and under extreme pressure to meet
quotas. Close communication with local
farmers, assistance with resources and
firm expectations can aid in combating
The combined outreach efforts of
these large corporations, global organizations and universities have positively
influenced sustainable Good Agricultural Practices and food safety standards
in every part of the globe.
The Contribution of Animal
Welfare to Quality
Animal welfare programs were widely
adopted after the Humane Slaughter Act
of 1958 was passed into law,
8 setting the
stage for appropriate treatment of agricultural animals in the United States.
Innovations in animal husbandry, transportation and slaughter have grown into
an industry of their own. There are regulations, audits, consultants and experts
devoted to animal welfare.
There are few in the protein industry who don’t recognize the name Dr.
Temple Grandin, a huge proponent of
this movement since the beginning of
her nearly 50-year career. In the 2010
Time 100, an annual list of the 100 most
influential people in the world, she
was named in the “Heroes” category.
Grandin was one of the first scientists
to understand the extent that visual
distractions influence animal behavior.
She is famous for saying, “I think using
“In its infancy, green/
were often placed with
the quality leaders,
which was a fairly