Industry guidelines on surplus food donations aim to fight food waste

By Niamh Michail contact

- Last updated on GMT

'With these very practical guidelines, we are simply turning our words into action and encouraging more food companies to best use their surpluses,' said the FDE director general. Photo: iStock
'With these very practical guidelines, we are simply turning our words into action and encouraging more food companies to best use their surpluses,' said the FDE director general. Photo: iStock
Manufacturers and retailers have teamed up with the European Federation of Food Banks to produce a framework for donating surplus food and cutting down on food waste.

Jointly drawn up by trade group FoodDrinkEurope, the European Federation of Food Banks (FEBA)and EuroCommerce which represents the retail and wholesale sector, the guide entitled 'Every Meal Matters' aims to give industry a practical voluntary framework on how to effectively deal with surpluses.

Director general of FoodDrinkEurope Mella Frewen said industry needed  first and foremost to tackle the root causes of food waste all along the food chain. "However, when food surpluses do occur, we all agree they should be redistributed as much as possible to food banks. With these very practical guidelines, we are simply turning our words into action and encouraging more food companies to best use their surpluses.“ 

Isabel Jonet, president of the European Federation of Food Banks (FEBA) said: “We estimate that, in Europe, less than 10 % of edible surplus food is currently redistributed in such a way. Among the reasons for such a low rescue rate, is the absence of a 'consider donating the product' step in the manufacturing process and lack of clear rules regarding the handling of products and the responsibilities which go with it.”

The hope is that these guidelines will bring this 'consider donating' step to the fore.

The guidelines

According to the guidelines​, the first step is to define surplus food – this could include products that are over-ordered or over-supplied, part of a cancelled order, or rejected because the quality does not meet customer specifications.

It advises companies to prepare internal procedures to identify what are the collection and redistribution and food safety and storage requirements.

fde checklist
© FoodDrinkEurope

Manufacturers should also choose a suitable recipient organisation, such as a FEBA food bank or a social enterprise that sells food at very low prices to people in need. When selecting a suitable partner, firms should take into consideration the donation partner’s capacity to handle and redistribute the surplus food, such as scale, storage space or the necessary food safety and hygiene training.  

Tracking and monitoring donations can also help firms understand any trends and patterns of surplus food and highlight ways in which to improve efficiency.

The manufacturer's perspective

European President of Kellogg Company Chris Hood, who launched the guide in Brussels yesterday, told FoodNavigator it was useful in helping industry answer a large number of basic questions such as ‘what kind of food can I donate?’ and ‘How do food banks re-distribute our food?’

Since starting its Breakfasts for Better Days programme in 2013, it has increased the amount of food donated to food banks in 18 European countries.

“In 2012 in the UK where our biggest operations exist we donated 14% of everything we could in 2013. In 2015 we donated 51% of everything we could,” ​he said adding that the company has the twin objectives of reducing the amount of surplus food as well as donating as much of it as we can.

“[Kellogg's] objective is to convert every kilo of grain we buy into food that we sell and we have an efficient production process that aims to make that happen. However, there are occasions when we cannot sell this food through our usual channels,” ​he said.    

“We’ll use these [Every Meal Matter] documents to help us review our current practices to make sure we donate as much food as we can.”

The guidelines can be read here.

FEBA operates 265 food banks in 23 different countries, serving up 29 million meals per day.

One of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals is to halve food waste by 2030.   

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