Could Danish Anti-Food Waste Supermarket Work in America?

Denmark has managed to slash food waste by 25 percent over the past five years. This is due, in part, to a program they implemented that sells mislabeled, damaged, expired or misshapen food at a discount of 30-50 percent. The discount has had a remarkable impact on the chain, with food flying off the shelves, rather than heading to the local landfill. With other supermarkets around Europe ready to follow suit, the question is: Can this also be implemented in the U.S.?

The United States is known for it’s immense food waste, however it’s an issue that hasn’t received much attention until recently. Much of this is due to American’s false preconceptions about expiration dates and “ugly” food.

Most Americans (90 percent) will throw out food while it’s still perfectly edible and safe to eat. That’s because of a false belief that expiration dates somehow rate the safety of consuming an item. This is most definitely not the case. Rather, expiration dates merely reflect the ‘peak freshness’ of a product. Many products, including canned or non-refrigerated goods, will have almost no noticeable change in taste if consumed within a few months, or even a year, after the expiration date.

The problem is so bad that the USDA actually came out with a new app, called FoodKeeper, which helps consumers calculate the real ‘eat by’ date for food. Plenty of items, they say, can be consumed up to 18 months past the expiration date. The app is able to show specific guidelines for particular food groups, and helps consumers create a calendar to gauge food safety.

According to one report on U.S. food waste, the problem comes down to image: ”In most states, it is not illegal to sell product after the sell by date, but stores don’t do so out of concern that their image of carrying fresh products will be damaged. Most stores, in fact, pull items 2 to 3 days before the sell-by date.”

American squeamishness or lack of knowledge regarding this issue leads to 31 pounds of food waste per person. Or put another way, for every seven truckloads of food delivered to supermarkets, one entire truckload worth of perfectly edible food will be thrown in the landfill.

Some stores in the U.S. are combating this issue. For instance, in California the Berkeley Bowl supermarket created a 99 cent shelf where misshapen or nearly expired produce is sold. According to one article, this shelf rakes in about $1500 dollars per day in sales. However, far more stores need to follow this lead if we’re going to make any sort of impact in American food waste.

While it will be up to grocery stores individually to decide whether or not to sell ugly or nearly expired food, the government can step in on a number of issues to help cut food waste dramatically. Of course one of the major things they could revamp is the way we label our food. Simply revising or regulating expiry dates could have a huge impact over what Americans are willing to consume. Further, states can set up tax incentives for grocery stores to reduce the waste in their local markets.

A growing number of consumers are seeking to lower food waste at all levels of the supply chain. However, we need to encourage our public officials to put proper policies and incentives in place to ensure that we are feeding citizens, rather than our landfills.

Photo Credit: Ellin Beltz/Wikimedia

119 comments

william Miller
william Millerabout a year ago

thanks

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Ivana D.
Ivana D1 years ago

Tyfs

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Ivana D.
Ivana D1 years ago

Tyfs

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Marie W.
Marie W1 years ago

Any action is helpful.

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Laurie Mazzeo
Laurie Mazzeo1 years ago

This could work on so many levels and could be the precursor of a more generous , caring and sharing society that could reduce world starvation and poverty levels

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Laurie Mazzeo
Laurie Mazzeo1 years ago

This could work on so many levels and could be the precursor of a more generous , caring and sharing society that could reduce world starvation and poverty levels

SEND
Laurie Mazzeo
Laurie Mazzeo1 years ago

This could work on so many levels and could be the precursor of a more generous , caring and sharing society that could reduce world starvation and poverty levels

SEND
Laurie Mazzeo
Laurie Mazzeo1 years ago

This could work on so many levels and could be the precursor of a more generous , caring and sharing society that could reduce world starvation and poverty levels

SEND
Laurie Mazzeo
Laurie Mazzeo1 years ago

This could work on so many levels and could be the precursor of a more generous , caring and sharing society that could reduce world starvation and poverty levels

SEND