Fabian Demicoli

European Parliament Aims to Resolve Food Waste

 The European Parliament has adopted a non-legislative resolution that called for action to halve food waste by 2025 and improve access to food by the needy. According to EU Commission figures, households, supermarkets and restaurants, along with the rest of the food supply chain, are currently wasting up to 50% of edible food. To combat such waste, which is occurring at all stages in the chain, MEPs have called on the commission to implement a coordinated strategy combining EU-wide and national measures to improve the efficiency of the food supply and consumption chains sector by sector – and to tackle food wastage as a matter of urgency.

 

The resolution laid out areas which such a strategy would need to address. New awareness campaigns should be run at both EU and national levels to inform the public how to avoid wasting food. In addition the resolution called for Member States to introduce school and college courses explaining how to store, cook and dispose of food and also exchange best practices to this end. MEPs also called for 2014 to be designated as "European year against food waste".

The EU27 currently wastes 89 million tonnes of food each year – equivalent to 179 kg per person. In an effort to tackle this still growing problem the resolution called for the adoption of dual-date labelling to show when food may be sold until (sell-by date) and until when it should be consumed by (use-by date). It was claimed that this would help to avoid situations in which retailers offer food too close to its expiry date – thus increasing the potential for wastage.

MEP, Liam Aylward (Fianna Fáil, Ireland), who negotiated on behalf of the Alliance of Liberal Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Group, said: "It is outrageous that almost 90 million tonnes of perfectly fine food gets wasted each year while an estimated 79 million people in the EU live beneath the poverty line and around 16 million depend on food aid from charitable institutions."

Furthermore, public institutions should favour responsible caterers. According to the resolution public procurement rules for catering and hospitality should be updated to ensure that where possible, contracts are awarded to catering companies that use local produce and give away or redistribute leftover food to poorer people or food banks free of charge, rather than just disposing of it.

"To improve resource efficiency at all stages of the supply chain we need both a coordinated EU strategy as well as sharing of best practices across Member States. Most importantly, however, all players in the food supply chain need to be brought on board and help devise guidelines to improve efficiency and minimise waste," added Aylward.

However, retail, wholesale and international trade representative, EuroCommerce pointed out that official reports from the EU Commission suggest that the commerce sector is responsible for only 5.5% of total food waste, but added that commerce recognised that all actors in the supply chain must take measures to combat waste and be willing to assume their share of responsibility.

According to the organisation, thanks to modern distribution techniques, just in time delivery has led to a better working of supply and consumer demand, and actions have also been taken by retailers to recover food that can no longer be eaten for use as a feedstock in energy production.

EuroCommerce director general Christian Verschueren commented: "The commerce sector has long engaged in practices designed to help consumers reduce their food waste, such as promotion of information in stores and the development of awareness-raising campaigns. Retailers have voluntarily taken on this responsibility and we are glad the European Parliament recognises our commitment through such platforms as the Retail Forum for Sustainability."

Meanwhile, representative of the food and drinks industry, FoodDrinkEurope said that its members welcomed the acknowledgement of the role that packaging can play in preventing food waste and the need for clarification on date labels to help raise consumer awareness and knowledge. However, it added that in order to compare data and design food waste policy measures across EU Member States, efforts to improve the consistency of reporting on the figures and waste categories used by some Member States could have been highlighted.

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