Labeling Waste

While I was visiting my family in Boston recently, we ate at a local chain called Not Your Average Joe’s. It seems like the kind of restaurant we’ll see more of in future, serving a diverse menu of “creative casual cuisine” (whatever that means). It’s like a more local, higher-end Chili’s.

Our table of five adults and two three-year-olds received two iron stands filled with focaccia chunks. We must have been given two pounds of the Italian bread, which they’re required to throw away after each party leaves because of contamination concerns. I hope they’ve found some other purpose for what must be a few trash bags full of focaccia they throw out every night. A more sensible approach would be to give less bread at first and allow diners to ask for more if they so desire.

While we’ve all experienced wasted bread, I hadn’t ever seen the label on our leftovers. Each to-go box had this sticker (pictured below) with food safety info and a line for the server to write the dish and the day’s date. While I applaud reminding customers when their entree was purchased, I fear it may be used as an excuse to chuck that food a few days later. Leftovers, if refrigerated promptly, are safe up to a week later.

Most worrying, however, is the little slogan on the label’s bottom: “When in doubt, throw it out.” I don’t think folks need more help creating food waste. We seem to have that art mastered already, as, omitting pizza, 55 to 60 percent of all restaurant leftovers taken home aren’t eaten (according to my interview with Brian Wansink).  

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