The USDA this week launched a new app, FoodKeeper, to help fight against food waste.
The app comes as USDA is set to celebrate World Health Day on April 7 and participate in the U.S. Food Waste Challenge.
Developed by the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, with Cornell University and the Food Marketing Institute, the app, for Apple and Android, helps users store food and beverages to maximize their freshness and quality.
USDA says consumers who understand how to store food and beverages will be able to extend the shelf life of those items, rather than throwing them away.
FoodKeeper has storage information on more than 400 food and beverage items, including baby food, dairy products, eggs, meat, poultry and produce.
Billions of pounds of food go to waste annually in the U.S. because consumers are not sure of its quality or safety, USDA said, estimating that 21% of the available food in the U.S. goes uneaten at the consumer level. USDA also estimates that at the retail and consumer level, 36 pounds of food per person is wasted each month.
The app can remind consumers when food is about to spoil, save consumers money and reduce the amount of food that goes to landfills.
Features include specific storage timelines for food in the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry; Cooking tips for meat, poultry, seafood and egg products; and Calendar integration, which allows users to enter the purchase date for products and offers notifications when products are nearing the end of their recommended storage date.
If a user has not found the information they are looking for about a product, they can submit a question to USDA using the 'Ask Karen' feature of the application. 'Ask Karen' is USDA's 24/7 virtual representative. The system provides information about preventing foodborne illness and safe food handling, storage, and preparation of meat, poultry, and egg products.
Food Waste Challenge
The application is part of a larger effort between USDA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency called the U.S. Food Waste Challenge.
Launched in 2013, the Food Waste Challenge calls on participants across the food chain – farms, agricultural processors, food manufacturers, grocery stores, restaurants, universities, schools, and local governments – to join efforts to reduce, recover and recycle:
• Reduce 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 like food banks and pantries; and,
• Recycle food waste to feed animals or to create compost, bioenergy, and natural fertilizers.