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J Am Diet Assoc. 1987 Mar;87(3):322-9.

Food discard practices of householders.


Food discard patterns and reasons were determined for a sample of 243 households in Oregon. Personal interviews were conducted, and 7-day records of discards were collected. Discards over a 3-day period also were collected from a subsample of 50. The householder's estimate of amount, converted from measures to grams using food composition tables, was found to be 97% of the actual grams of food, as weighed in the laboratory. Households discarded an average of 1,587 gm ($2.88) food in a 7-day period on the basis of the 79% completed usable records. Major reasons were poor quality for fruits and vegetables; storage time for meat, fish, and poultry; non-use of leftovers for combination dishes; and plate waste for cereals and dairy products. Twenty-nine percent of the discarded food (by cost) was considered to be unsafe to eat by the householder. Aesthetic factors dominated decisions by the 18- to 25-year age group, but experiences related to food storage were the basis for decisions by half of the respondents more than 65 years old. Discards increased with number of members in the household and were influenced by age of children. Household income was not linearly related to amount of discard. As household refrigerator temperatures increased from 1.7 degrees C to 20 degrees C, the amount of discards also increased. Consumers generally lacked criteria for evaluating the safety of foods.

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