(NaturalNews) Even though one in seven U.S. residents struggles to get enough food, the nation's supermarkets throw away tons of produce and other food products every single year.
According to a study by the California Integrated Waste Management board, 63 percent of the average supermarket's waste stream is food. This comes out to 3,000 pounds per store per year.
The bulk of this food is not unsafe for consumption. It includes foods that have become less visually appealing, like bananas that have started to get brown spots or potatoes that have started to turn green; perfectly unblemished, unspoiled food that is thrown away merely to make room for a new shipment; and packaged food approaching its sell-by date.
Food recovery groups seeking to get such food into the hands of the hungry note that even food past its sell-by date is still safe for human consumption. Even meat can be good for several months past this date if frozen.
"All the 'daily specials' -- cooked food like ham and ribs were dumped each night," said former Safeway deli employee John Wadginski. "I had to throw out 10 pound hams that weren't even touched. It was easily 50 pounds of food a night."
In an attempt to stop supermarkets from wasting food while people go hungry, the Bill Emerson Federal Good Samaritan Food Donation Act went into effect in 1996, protecting supermarkets from litigation should someone become sick from donated food. The only exceptions to the law are cases of gross negligence or deliberate malice. Numerous states have passed similar laws.
Yet even though such laws have never been challenged, stores continue to cite fears of litigation and bad press as a reason for throwing away edible food rather than giving it to those who need it. Many go as far as installing trash compactors to keep people from pulling the edible produce out of their dumpsters.
"Today I threw out 20 bags of lettuce" said an employee at a Ralph's in Long Beach, Calif. "The code date was for yesterday -- but I would have purchased any one of those bags."