Drive Federal Action to Reduce Food Waste

The United States has set its first-ever goal to reduce wasted food, aiming to cut it by 50 percent by 2030. That gives us a huge opportunity to support policy innovation and encourage federal action.

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NRDC is working both legislatively and through the executive branch to support federal efforts to prevent and reduce wasted food from farm to fork. Our 10-point plan spotlights high-priority actions that the federal government can take to meet these challenges. NRDC experts have also given testimony on Capitol Hill urging federal lawmakers to act on this pressing issue.

Two of NRDC’s major calls for federal action have centered on standardizing food-date labels and expanding food-donation laws. A 2013 report we published with Harvard Law School, “The Dating Game: How Confusing Food Date Labels Lead to Food Waste in America,” revealed the enormous amount of food going to waste due to confusion about date labels. Under the current labeling system, consumers often misinterpret the dates to mean that food must be discarded after the date for safety reasons, when in fact the dates are only suggestions by the manufacturer for when the food is at its freshest or peak quality. Since the release of this report, NRDC has been working with food producers, industry trade associations, and policy makers to standardize date labels. In May 2016, the Food Date Labeling Act, which would standardize date labels and relax restrictions on donating food past its date, was introduced in both the House and the Senate. We will continue to push for standardization until legislation or a satisfactory voluntary system exists.

Given that one in eight Americans isn’t able to consistently put enough food on the table, our problem of wasting food is urgent—and at the commercial level, there is an opportunity to address immediate needs with some of the food that currently goes to waste. The United States has excellent liability protection and tax benefit laws to encourage food donation, and the expansion of tax benefits granted by the America Gives More Act of 2015 has made them even better. But enhancing the Good Samaritan Act, which provides liability protection to food donors, and addressing specific aspects of the tax benefits would further incentivize increased food rescue across the country. NRDC is partnering with the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic to suggest meaningful reforms to these laws.

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