Cornell University, along with USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and the Food Marketing Institute, have combined forces to create a new app to promote food safety and prevent food waste. This smartphone application is a great example of a successful partnership between a land-grant university and the federal government. America’s higher education institutions are places of cutting-edge research and technology, and their work can strengthen the way government agencies interact with consumers, food pantries, and food banks. Since the app was first released in April, more than 70,000 people have downloaded it.
The FoodKeeper application offers users valuable storage advice about more than 400 food and beverage items, including various types of baby food, dairy products and eggs, meat, poultry, produce, seafood, and more. With the application you can: Find specific storage timelines for the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry, depending on the nature of the product; Get cooking tips for cooking methods of meat, poultry and seafood products; Note in your devices’ calendar when products were purchased and receive notifications when they are nearing the end of their recommended storage date; Search the application with swipe gestures or voice control; and, Submit a question to USDA using the ‘Ask Karen’ feature of the application. ‘Ask Karen’ is USDA’s 24/7 virtual representative. The system provides information about preventing food-borne illness, safe food handling and storage, and safe preparation of meat, poultry, and egg products.
Food Waste Challenge
The application is part of a larger effort between USDA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency called the U.S. Food Waste Challenge. Launched in 2013, the Food Waste Challenge appeals to participants across the food chain – farms, agricultural processors, food manufacturers, grocery stores, restaurants, universities, schools, and local governments – to join efforts to:
Reduce food waste by improving product development, storage, shopping/ordering, marketing, labeling, and cooking methods; recover food waste by connecting potential food donors to hunger relief organizations like food banks and pantries; and, Recycle food waste to feed animals or to create compost, bioenergy, and natural fertilizers. By joining the Challenge, organizations and businesses demonstrate their commitment to reducing food waste, helping to feed the hungry in their communities, and reducing the environmental impact of wasted food.
The FoodKeeper was originally a publication containing valuable advice to help consumers understand the shelf life of products when stored in the pantry, refrigerator or freezer. In 2015, partners turned the publication’s guidelines into this application. The app is available for Android and Apple devices. Storage times listed are intended as useful guidelines and are not hard-and-fast rules. Some foods may deteriorate more quickly while others may last longer than the times suggested.