The COVID-19 pandemic has upended many of our many habits and routines, including how we eat. From the closures of favorite restaurants and bars to the transition to working from home, many people are simply leaving their homes less frequently. This has caused a shift in dining out habits. Fewer workers are grabbing fast food during lunch or dining out with clients or friends. All the extra time at home has led to a rise in people cooking their own meals.
Cooking meals is time consuming, as it requires a certain amount of planning, especially when trying to make as few trips to the grocery store as possible. One positive outcome of more people cooking is that food waste has decreased, as people are getting creative with leftover ingredients to make new meals. According to the World Economic Forum, an average family of four in the United States was estimated to throw out $1,800 worth of food each year. A new hunger for cooking as well as the development of new cooking skills is decreasing that amount.
Standards can also contribute to a decrease in food waste, particularly by helping support methods of preventing food spoilage. Food spoilage is caused by bacteria, which exist on the microscopic level everywhere. Bacteria consumes your food, reproduces, and creates waste, which is the foul, rotten smell you detect on spoiling food. However, at lower temperatures, bacteria reproduces less quickly, which is why food lasts longer when refrigerated.
ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 72-2014, Method of Testing Open and Closed Commercial Refrigerators and Freezers, was developed by ASHRAE, an ANSI-accredited standards developing organization. This standard prescribes a uniform method of testing open and closed commercial refrigerators and freezers for rating so that comparative evaluations can be made of energy consumption, product temperature performance, refrigeration load, the suction pressures required, and other performance factors. In the long term, these test methods can help refrigerators last longer and perform better, thus keeping food from spoiling.
Refrigerated foods aren’t the only foods that can spoil. Dry ingredients such as herbs and spices are pantry items, usually bought in larger quantities than one needs for one meal, and they also need a method to prevent spoilage. ASTM F1885-18, Standard Guide for Irradiation of Dried Spices, Herbs, and Vegetable Seasonings to Control Pathogens and Other Microorganisms, was developed by ASTM International, an ANSI member and audited designator, and covers procedures for irradiation of dried spices, herbs, and vegetable seasonings for microbiological control. This procedure helps control levels bacteria that cause spoilage in these dried spices and herbs, which keeps them from spoiling.
Accreditation also improves food safety; find out how the ANSI National Accreditation Board (ANAB), a wholly owned subsidiary of ANSI, supports this in ANAB's newly published “The Quarantine Cookbook,” also a resource for all types of recipes.
While the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, less food waste is a positive piece of news to emerge. Even after pandemic, these trends may continue as people retain the cooking skills they learned during lockdown and continue to tweak their culinary skills at home.
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