Italy gives companies green light to donate unsold food to charity

By Natalie MORRISON

- Last updated on GMT

The new law – approved earlier this week – aims to cut food waste by 20% per year, from 5 million tonnes to 4 million tonnes. ©iStock
The new law – approved earlier this week – aims to cut food waste by 20% per year, from 5 million tonnes to 4 million tonnes. ©iStock

Related tags: Food waste, European union

Italy’s agricultural ministry has passed its new waste law lifting hurdles for companies giving away unsold food to charity.

Plans also include a €1 million research fund for innovative packaging and transit methods for a longer shelf life and a €3m fund to study reusable and easy recycle packaging. The €3m will be portioned out by €1m per year throughout 2016, 2017 and 2018.

The new law​ – approved earlier this week – aims to cut food waste by 20% per year, from 5m tonnes to 4m tonnes. Wastage costs are currently estimated at around €12 billion.

Before, companies were in jeopardy of violating health and safety rules over hygiene and traceability when donating food. Companies giving away food slightly past its sell-by date risked violating these laws.

The new law means businesses will not be subject to previous fines for donating marginally out-of-date food, and will actually pay less tax on waste the more they give away.

“With this rule we get closer and closer to the objective of recovering 1m tonnes of food and give it to those who need it through the invaluable work of the charitable organisations,”​ Maurizio Martina, Minister of agricultural, food and forestry policies said (quote translated from Italian).

The law is: “A model that makes us unique in Europe and which aims to encourage and facilitate recovery rather than to punish those who waste.”

Previously​, Democratic bill rapporteur Maria Chiara Gadda said offering a reward to companies to cut food waste is a good policy since: “Punishing those who waste is of little value.”

Cracking down on waste

food waste
Waste food could feed hungry people in the world two times over, and is impacting on carbon emmissions. ©iStock

Italy’s move follows a host of other waste management initiatives across Europe.

“Around 100 million tonnes of food are wasted annually in the EU (estimate for 2012). Modelling suggests, if nothing is done, food waste could rise to over 120 million tonnes by 2020,”​ according to the EU Horizon 2020-funded REFRESH project​ (Resource Efficient Food and dRink for the Entire Supply cHain).​ The project aims to cut food waste by 30% in Europe before the end of 2025.

“Up to 50% of edible and healthy food gets wasted in EU households, supermarkets, restaurants and along the food supply chain every year,”​ the European Federation of Food Banks estimates.

REFRESH say the lost food is enough to feed hungry people in the world two times over, and is having a big impact on carbon emmissions.

Together with moving to healthier diets reducing food waste both in and out of the home is the most significant demand-side measure for reducing the carbon impact of the food system.”

The European Commission put forward waste management plans earlier this month under the EU Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste​. Members of the platform include EU governments, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and industry, with a goal of bringing Europe in line with the UN’s sustainable development goals​ to halve retail and consumer food waste by 2030.

Waste food in the EU

The Council of the European Union also called on member states​ to focus on preventing food waste and to improve monitoring.

Italy is the latest country to follow suit, with other EU member states already launching waste management programmes including France​, which no

Supermarket food waste
France now fines supermarkets who fail to donate unsold yet edible food to charities. ©iStock

w fines supermarkets who fail to donate unsold yet edible food to charities.

The UK also had a private members’ ‘Food Reduction’ bill​ under consideration of amendments -- the last stage before royal ascent into law – which would have forced supermarkets and food manufacturers to disclose food waste levels in the supply chain in line with REFRESH’s targets.

But: “The 2015-16 session of Parliament has ended and this Bill will make no further progress”​, Parliament.co.uk states.

Related topics: Food waste, Policy

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