EU launches platform to fight food waste

By Louis Gore-Langton

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock
© iStock

Related tags Food waste European union

The European Commission has launched a multistakeholder platform to prevent food waste. Rethinking our food systems is a "moral obligation", said commissioner for health and food safety Vytenis Andriukaitis.

The ‘Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste’ will be comprised of 70 members representing government, private sector, scientific researchers and international organisations. They will meet regularly to share information and develop methods for meeting waste reductions targets.

Commissioner for health and food safety Vytenis Andriukaitis said: "Rethinking our food systems might seem a daunting task, requiring significant efforts but it is our moral obligation that we have to meet with commitment, creativity and co-operation. I am certain that all platform members share the sense of urgency that tackling food waste so clearly demands."

Currently around 88 million tonnes of food is wasted in Europe every year, part of a global wastage of 1.3bn tonnes – enough to feed as many as two billion people, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

The land used to grow wasted food amounts to an area the size of China and is responsible for 8% of greenhouse gas emissions.

In the EU, this loss accounts for 20% of all food produced and costs an estimated €143bn, according to the Food Use for Social Innovation by Optimising Waste Prevention Strategies (FUSIONS), an EU project that has recently ended.

FUSIONS aimed to halve European food loss and develop long term EU strategies to combat waste. With its end in July of this year, the Commission’s new platform will attempt to step in.

Date labelling

One of the main issues identified by the Commission in consumer food waste is misunderstanding of food labels; ‘best before’ and ‘use-by’ are often interpreted wrongly, causing unnecessary disposal of safe and edible food.

A Eurobarometer​ survey in 2015 found that a majority of people check the labels before eating, but less than half understand the meaning.

The Commission said it would consider extending the list of food items exempt from displaying the ‘best before’ labelling; sugar, salt, vinegar and even chewing gum are currently required to display the labels, though providing no safety benefits.

The new platform comes as part of the EU's drive towards a 'circular economy' in which all products are reused or recycled to the fullest extent possible; the European Structural & Investment Funds (ESIF) invested €5.5 billion into this project for waste management alone. 

Consumer action

Many consumer initiatives are also arising around Europe to combat food waste; Denmark's 'WeFood' supermarkets only stock surplus produce, much of which comes from wholesalers and other supermarkets.

Denmark has managed to cut its food waste rates by 25% since 2011.

Other government initiatives such as the French ban on supermarket wastage (which levels a €4000 fine for throwing away or spoiling unsold food) are being considered for Europe wide implementation.

Other groups such as the Love Food Hate Waste campaign in the UK offer household advice on saving money by avoiding food waste.

It claims that the average family could save £700 (€825) per year by simply avoiding waste.

The Commission points to this campaign as an example for its plans going forward, saying it has contributed to a 15% decrease in British household food waste between 2007 and 2012.

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