U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, accompanied by Frank Yiannas, deputy commissioner for food safety at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, met with 20 or so local business owners and nonprofit leaders to talk about how cutting food waste helps to address growing food insecurity and reduce environmental impacts. The climate change impacts of that waste were detailed in the Aug. 8 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Pingree, a Democrat who represents Maine’s 1st District, remembers first hearing the statistic that 30 to 40 percent of food in this country is wasted. As a farmer who had lost plenty of crops over the years, she thought that made sense. She also figured she had more pressing things to worry about and let it go. She doesn’t feel that way anymore. “The more I thought about it, this is a major environmental issue,” said Pingree, a member of the House Agriculture Committee. “We’ve got to bear down on this.”
One of the biggest areas of support Monday was for modernizing food labeling to eliminate inaccurate expiration dates that contribute to an overwhelming amount of waste of food that might be perfectly safe and acceptable to eat. Pingree this month reintroduced a bill designed to end confusion about what she called “arbitrary” dating of food, but it has not yet been voted on.
In 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency announced the first-ever domestic goal to reduce food loss and waste by 50 percent by 2030. The congresswoman said it might be time to impose other requirements for businesses and consumers, although she acknowledged that adding regulations might be challenging. “We’ve got to mandate some of this or it’s never going to happen,” she said.