WASHINGTON – The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is launching its new FoodKeeper app as a part of its commitment to reducing food waste in conjunction with the US Food Waste Challenge. The challenge, launched in 2013 by USDA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), calls on organizations and businesses across the food supply chain to join the fight against food waste.

The FoodKeeper app, available for both Android and Apple devices, was developed by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), in partnership with Cornell Univ. and the Food Marketing Institute. The application’s purpose is to inform users on how to store food and beverages to maximize their freshness and quality. FoodKeeper features storage advice about more than 400 food and beverage items, including eggs, meat, poultry, dairy products, produce, seafood, and more.

By helping users understand food storage, consumers can choose storage methods that extend the shelf-life of their foods.

“This application will help reduce food waste by showing users how to store foods properly, and reminding them to use items before they are likely to spoil,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “This can help consumers save money and reduce the amount of safe food going to landfills.”

According to USDA, every year, billions of pounds of food go to waste in the US because consumers are not sure of its quality or safety – 21 percent of the available food in the US goes uneaten at the consumer level. USDA also estimates that at the retail and consumer level, 36 lbs. of food per person is wasted each month.

The application features include the following:

• Specific product pages for more than 400 items, which offer users storage timelines for the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry.

• Cooking tips for meat, poultry, seafood and egg products. Cooking advice is offered to ensure users prepare these products in ways that eliminate foodborne bacteria.

• Calendar integration, which allows users to enter the purchase date for products and offers notifications when products are nearing the end of their recommended storage date.
• Users can search the application with swipe gestures or voice control.

• If a user has not found the information they are looking for about a product, they can 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 foodborne illness and safe food handling, storage, and preparation of meat, poultry, and egg products.

The app is just one of the USDA’s efforts as a part of the US Food Waste Challenge, which calls on 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.