Sustainable America Blog

Fighting Mold to Reduce Food Waste

Photo Credit: electricinca via Compfight cc

Have you ever noticed that sourdough bread takes longer to get moldy than other types of bread? Canadian scientists have discovered the reason for this phenomenon, and it could help prevent the waste of all kinds of foods by prolonging shelf life. In their research, the scientists found that an extra fermentation step involved in sourdough bread production not only gives sourdough its distinctive tangy flavor but also converts linoleic acid into hydroxy fatty acids that resist fungus.

By utilizing this special bacteria, bakers may be able to reduce the amount of preservatives used in bread as they lengthen the shelf life. The research also concludes that antifungal metabolites from the bacteria may be useful as a complement or substitute for fungicides used in seed treatment and crop protection.

Forty percent of all food produced in the U.S. is wasted, and 40% of that waste happens in production and distribution. A Natural Resources Defense Council report quotes one industry expert’s estimate that supermarkets discard an average of $2,300 per store in out-of-date food every day. Imagine the difference that longer shelf life could make on those numbers, and from a natural preservative no less!

Sustainable America is working hard to decrease food waste and increase food availability in the U.S. In fact, we’ve set a goal to increase food availability in America by 50% by 2035. Diminishing food waste from farm to fork is an important part of accomplishing that goal. There is still research and development to be done on sourdough bacteria before it can be utilized as a natural preservative in foods other than sourdough bread, but the concept is a promising one we intend to follow in the years ahead!

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By the Numbers

Currently 50 million households suffer from food insecurity, meaning that family members cannot always meet their basic food needs.

10 million people a year could be fed through the recovery of just one-fifth of food waste.

Only 2% of food waste is composted or otherwise recycled—62% of paper is recycled.

Consumers throw out about 40% of the fresh and frozen fish they buy.

The U.S. produced 208 pounds of meat per person in 2009—60% more than Europe.

Low income commuters spend a much higher proportion of their wages on gas—8.6% versus 2.1% at $4 per gallon.

Food prices rose 35-40 percentage points between 2002–2008.

Americans consume 25% of the world’s produced oil, but our nation holds less than 3% of the world’s proven oil reserves.

The International Energy Agency says greenhouse gas emissions rose 3.2% last year, with a 9.3% increase in China offsetting declines in the US and EU.

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