Researchers have also identified that most people perceive benefits to throwing food away, some of which have limited basis in fact.
A study published in PLOS ONE is just the second peer-reviewed large-scale consumer survey about food waste and is the first in the US to identify patterns regarding how Americans form attitudes on food waste.
The results provide the data required to develop targeted efforts to reduce the amount of food that US consumers throw away each year, said study co-author Brian Roe, the McCormick Professor of Agricultural Marketing and Policy at The Ohio State University.
The study found that only 53 per cent of respondents said they were aware that food waste is a problem.
Among other findings, the study identified general patterns that play a role in people's attitudes regarding household food waste.
"Generally, we found that people consider three things regarding food waste," said doctoral student Danyi Qi, who co-authored the study. "They perceive there are practical benefits, such as a reduced risk of foodborne illness, but at the same time they feel guilty about wasting food. They also know that their behaviours and how they manage their household influences how much food they waste."
The researchers said more focus on producing better standards for "Sell by" and "Use by" dates is needed, as these labels are often not related to food safety. They are also developing a smart phone app to better measure household food waste.