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Junking Food Is Bad for Everyone

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Organic Transitions page.

Several years ago, I worked in a grocery store bakery. At the end of each day, we threw away piles of perfectly good food.

Before the store closed, employees walked down each aisle, checking the expiration dates of bread, bagels, and cookies to toss out whatever expired that day - whether the food was actually still good or not. Then we chucked all of the day's fresh-baked pastries, muffins, and bread. And those were definitely still good to eat.

As employees, we weren't allowed to take it home and eat it ourselves. The store worried that if we could, we'd start baking too much on purpose in order to secure a larger supply of excess food at the end of the day.

I found the waste offensive.

Sometimes I snuck a bit of it out with me at the end of the night to hand to homeless people. I could have been fired for that. The store feared the prospect of attracting a line of homeless people begging for free food. And what if someone ate expired food, got sick, and sued? The food had to go in the trash.

According to a new study, this kind of waste goes on even after the food goes home with customers. Americans trash 40 percent of the food we buy - $165 billion worth per year - often because the food is past the expiration date.  
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