Amounts and rates of retail food loss vary by type of fresh vegetable

This chart shows selected top fresh vegetables in terms of loss volumes and rates in food stores.

Retail-level food loss occurs when grocery retailers remove dented cans, misshapen produce items, overstocked holiday foods, and spoiled foods from their shelves. Estimates of the rates of foodstore loss for fresh produce were developed by comparing data on pounds of shipments received with pounds purchased by consumers for 2,900 U.S. supermarkets in 2011–12. The average supermarket loss rate was 11.6 percent for 31 fresh vegetables. The highest loss rate among the vegetables was for turnip greens, followed by mustard greens, and escarole/endive. ERS researchers applied these loss rates to 2016 quantities of fresh vegetables available for sale in retail stores to estimate retail level food loss. Potatoes, tomatoes, and romaine and leaf lettuce topped the list of fresh vegetables in terms of food loss volumes. Their loss rates are lower than turnip and mustard greens, but their sales volumes are higher. In 2016, potatoes, tomatoes, and romaine and leaf lettuce accounted for 35 percent of food store fresh vegetable sales. Supermarket loss for the 31 fresh vegetables totaled 6.2 billion pounds per year in 2016, or 5 billion pounds per year after removing the weight of nonedible peels, stalks, etc. Losses for fresh produce and other foods also occur in homes and eating places when food spoils or is served but not eaten (plate waste). The statistics in this chart are from the 2016 ERS report, Updated Supermarket Shrink Estimates for Fresh Foods and Their Implications for ERS Loss-Adjusted Food Availability Data, and the Loss-Adjusted Food Availability data series in ERS’s Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System.

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