EU must act on food waste

2nd May 2014

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Amelia Woodley

European-wide targets, tax breaks and a shift away from the waste hierarchy could help to reduce the 90 million tonnes of food wasted each year across Europe, according to a report from the EU committee at the House of Lords

The peers warn that food waste is costing the UK at least £5 billion each year in lost resources and say that production of the food that is being discarded is a source of significant carbon emissions.

Urgent action is needed at the EU and national level to reduce food waste, particularly the waste being generated in the supply chain, concludes the report. It lays the blame on retailers, saying that they influence the behaviour of producers, manufacturers and consumers, but have so far failed to take the issue seriously.

In addition to introducing EU-wide food waste targets, the peers recommend that the UK government considers offering tax breaks to supermarkets that donate unsold food to food banks rather than for use in anaerobic digestion (AD).

Such an approach would require a shift in EU policy away from the waste hierarchy to a "food use" hierarchy where greater emphasis is placed on redistributing surplus food to humans and then as animal feed, before sending it to AD plants.

Meanwhile, supermarkets are urged to act more responsibly by reducing the number of "buy-one, get-one-free" offers on fresh food, and to "work harder" to avoid cancelling orders for produce that has already been grown.

The UK government, meanwhile, is warned that it must ensure recent cuts to Wrap's budget do not have an impact on its work in the food supply chain.

The committee also urges a more strategic approach at the EU level, calling on the next European commission, which is to be appointed in November, to outline within six months a five-year strategy for tackling food waste.

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