We’re Wasting More Than Half of the Food In Our Refrigerators, Says New Study

Highwaystarz-Photography/iStock via Getty Images
Highwaystarz-Photography/iStock via Getty Images

Coming home after a long weekend away to a rancid carton of milk or a moldy bunch of berries happens to the best of us. A new study hints at the reason so much of our food gets tossed.

In the study, published online in the journal Resources, Conservation, and Recycling, researchers from The Ohio State University and Louisiana State University analyzed data from 307 participants who took the State of the American Refrigerator survey. Ohio State News reports that they found a sizable disconnect between participants’ expectations of how much food they’d end up eating and how much they actually ate. Survey participants projected a finish rate of 97 percent for meat, 94 percent for vegetables, 84 percent for dairy, and 71 percent for fruit. A week later, they reported the honest outcome: People ate about half the meat, 44 percent of the vegetables, 42 percent of the dairy, and 40 percent of the fruit—they trashed everything else.

According to the survey, people often tossed food because of the dates on the labels, or because they thought it looked or smelled suspicious. But many Americans don’t understand what those ambiguous expiration dates mean in the first place, and therefore opt for a “better safe than sorry” plan of action when the food itself is probably still safe.

Those “expiration” disclaimers could improve soon, though. Congress is currently looking over a proposal to standardize the language so consumers can more clearly interpret it. If Congress passes the proposal, “Use by [date]” will be a nationwide mandate to throw out products after that date, while “Best if used by [date]” will signify that it’s safe to eat or drink as long as you think it seems OK.

Follow-up questions on the survey showed trends in other behaviors that contribute to the likelihood of food waste. People who cleaned out their refrigerators frequently and younger participants wasted food more often, while those who frequently check nutrition labels wasted less. Researchers suggested that people who check nutrition labels are more conscientious about what they buy and less likely to waste it with abandon. It’s possible that they’ve also better educated themselves on which foods are safe to eat after the sell-by dates.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, around one-third of the world’s food is lost or wasted—that’s about 1.3 billion tons of food per year.

Feeling a little guilty about your own food waste? Here are eight easy ways to cut back.

[h/t Ohio State News]

What's the Difference Between Stuffing and Dressing?

iStock
iStock

For carbohydrate lovers, nothing completes a Thanksgiving meal quite like stuffing—shovelfuls of bread, celery, mushrooms, and other ingredients that complement all of that turkey protein.

Some people don’t say stuffing, though. They say dressing. In these calamitous times, knowing how to properly refer to the giant glob of insulin-spiking bread seems necessary. So what's the difference?

Let’s dismiss one theory off the bat: Dressing and stuffing do not correlate with how the side dish is prepared. A turkey can be stuffed with dressing, and stuffing can be served in a casserole dish. Whether it’s ever seen the inside of a bird is irrelevant, and anyone who tells you otherwise is wrong and should be met with suspicion, if not outright derision.

The terms are actually separated due to regional dialects. Dressing seems to be the favored descriptor for southern states like Mississippi, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Georgia, while stuffing is preferred by Maine, New York, and other northern areas. (Some parts of Pennsylvania call it filling, which is a bit too on the nose, but to each their own.)

If stuffing stemmed from the common practice of filling a turkey with carbs, why the division? According to HuffPost, it may have been because Southerners considered the word stuffing impolite, and therefore never embraced it.

While you should experience no material difference in asking for stuffing or dressing, when visiting relatives it might be helpful to keep to their regionally-preferred word to avoid confusion. Enjoy stuffing yourselves.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

The Reason You Should Never Rinse a Turkey

jax10289/iStock via Getty Images
jax10289/iStock via Getty Images

There are many misconceptions surrounding your Thanksgiving turkey, but none is more dangerous than the turkey-washing myth. Raw poultry can contain dangerous microbes like Salmonella, and it's not uncommon for home cooks to rinse their meat under cool water in an effort to wash away these pathogens. The intention may be admirable, but this is a worse turkey sin than overcooking your bird or carving it before letting it rest. According to AOL, rinsing a raw turkey with water is more likely to make you and your dinner guests sick than not cleaning it at all.

When you wash a turkey in the sink, there's no guarantee that all of the nasty stuff on the outside of it is going down the drain. In fact, the only thing rinsing does is spread potentially harmful microbes around. In addition to getting bacteria on you hands and clothes, rinsing can contaminate countertops, sink handles, and even the surrounding air.

There are three main ways to lower your chances of contracting Salmonella when dealing with raw turkey: Thaw your bird in the fridge, minimize contact with it before it goes into the oven, and give it plenty of time to cook once it's in there. For the second part, that means setting aside time to pat your turkey dry, remove the excess fat and skin, and season it without handling anything else. To reduce the risk of cross-contamination, wash your hands frequently and wash the plates, knives, and other tools that touched the turkey before using them again. You should also cook your stuffing outside the turkey rather than shoving it inside the cavity and creating a Salmonella bomb.

Once the safety aspect is taken care of, you can focus on making your turkey taste as delicious as possible. Here are some tips from professional chefs on making your starring dish shine this Thanksgiving.

[h/t AOL]

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