Counting the Cost of Food Waste: EU Food Waste Prevention - European Union Committee Contents

CHAPTER 7: Conclusions and Recommendations

Chapter 2: Defining, monitoring, and setting targets for food waste

179.  Food waste is more apparent, and easier to define, towards the end of the supply chain. At the producer level, though, the issue is much more complex, particularly in relation to on-farm losses. We conclude that food grown but not harvested due to adverse weather conditions should not be considered as food waste. On the other hand, food not harvested for other reasons, such as change in demand, should be included within the definition of food waste. (paragraph 31)

180.  We conclude that the idea of a universal food waste definition that works across the food supply chain and at different geographical scales defies the complexities of the European food supply chain. We recommend that a more productive approach would be to standardise approaches to defining different material and waste flows at each stage of the food supply chain, including unavoidable waste. (paragraph 32)

181.  We conclude that food waste is a data-poor area across the main sectors where it arises. In some instances, assessment has been shown to be possible. This is particularly so among larger retailers and food service companies. It is, however, much more difficult to assess the quantity and nature of food waste at the producer, manufacturer and consumer levels and within smaller businesses in particular. (paragraph 38)

182.  In order to boost data availability across the EU, the current Member State reporting requirements must be reformed, so that food waste can be more reliably identified. This requires action on the part of EUROSTAT and Member States in order to reform some of the existing reporting categories that currently conceal food waste estimates. (paragraph 42)

183.  Recent developments in the UK and Norway illustrate how voluntary public disclosure and greater openness about food waste arisings can be successfully achieved. Although a compulsory reporting framework for large companies could be feasible, the European Commission should consider ways of facilitating voluntary public disclosure. Recently agreed EU legislation on the disclosure of non-financial information by large companies, including environmental information, offers a possible framework for such voluntary reporting. (paragraph 45)

184.  Food waste monitoring and data collection across the supply chain must be effectively resourced across the EU. In the UK, there is a high risk of false economy if the cuts to WRAP's funding to support food waste prevention ultimately lead to resource inefficiency in terms of economic costs to businesses and households, and environmental costs from greenhouse gas emissions and water and energy consumption. We therefore recommend that the UK Government work closely with WRAP to assess the impact of the budget cut on WRAP's ability to contribute to food waste prevention, particularly in the context of its unique ability to work along the whole supply chain. (paragraph 48)

185.  A common definition, a coherent set of data and reporting requirements are not prerequisites for action. We consider it self-evident that, in a resource-efficient Europe, all involved throughout the supply chain should be looking to minimise waste of all varieties. (paragraph 51)

186.  We conclude that a binding target requires adequate baseline information, which is simply not available across the EU at present. Given the difficulties relating to a common definition across the supply chain, we recommend that consideration be given to the development of aspirational targets for each level of the supply chain. We believe that aspirational targets set at the EU level could help focus Member State attention and encourage efforts to prevent food waste throughout the supply chain. (paragraph 57)

Chapter 3: Food waste from farm to fork

187.  We agree that consumers have an important role to play in reducing food waste. While increasingly unpredictable lifestyles create challenges for food waste prevention and reduction in the home, these are not insurmountable. Rather, efforts to help consumers to tackle food waste must be made within the context of those challenges. The awareness-raising work carried out in a number of Member States has rightly put emphasis on enabling consumers to find solutions to food waste in the home. Tools that can be used include simple and practical ideas for recipes, but extend also to innovations such as the Dutch 'Smart Cooking' mobile phone application and the innovative microchip and food label 'tags' that can monitor the actual state of food. (paragraph 66)

188.  It is clear that retailers must assume a far greater responsibility for the prevention of food waste in the home. Retailers must ensure that incentives and promotions offered to consumers do not transfer waste from the store to the household. (paragraph 69)

189.  We conclude that date labelling on foods remains confusing to consumers. Retailers have a key role to play in ensuring that consumers understand dates and are not misled. We therefore recommend urgent publication of the advanced guidance to which the UK Government referred. (paragraph 72)

190.  We conclude that few consumers are aware that packaging can be crucial for the durability of food. Retailers have a responsibility to communicate the benefits of packaging and information about how food should be stored to avoid premature deterioration and unnecessary food waste. (paragraph 75)

191.  It is clear that actions by retailers, such as the cancellation of orders of food that has already been grown, leads to food waste earlier in the food supply chain. We recommend a renewed effort by businesses to promote cooperation and shared financial responsibility. This effort should, amongst others, include: careful consideration of contractual requirements in the sector, including much wider use of long-term contracts and ones where the relationship between different ends of the supply chain does not encourage overproduction; the encouragement of whole-crop purchasing; and improvements to forecasting. (paragraph 85)

192.  The supply chain cooperation model observed in the Netherlands is, we conclude, helpful and self-sustaining. It is one that could be promoted at the national and European levels, along with the best practice from WRAP's whole supply chain work under the Product Sustainability Forum. We recommend that the European Commission considers bringing together EU level bodies representing the various parts of the supply chain, building on existing mechanisms. Consumers must be represented in such work. (paragraph 97)

193.  We support the development of a Grocery Supply Code of Practice across the EU, to be regulated by Member States and monitored by the European Commission. The development of the approach in the UK should feed into policy development at European level, where extension of the Code beyond direct relationships in the supply chain is welcome. (paragraph 102)

Chapter 4: EU regulation

194.  We detect no systematic attempt across the European Commission to assess the impact on food waste of its policies. We therefore recommend the establishment of a cross-Departmental working group on the issue. We welcome the recommendation that an evaluation of the General Food Law should form part of the Commission's Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme. We recommend that its remit extend to consider the impact on food waste prevention of EU legislation beyond that Law. (paragraph 107)

195.  The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) does not aim explicitly to prevent food waste. Nevertheless, a move towards a more competitive agricultural industry, as is the intention of the reformed CAP, should have the effect of reducing waste on-farm. The CAP offers methods to accelerate that progress. In implementing the CAP, we recommend that the UK Government consider on-farm food waste prevention as an integral part of the policy, given the clear economic benefits of doing so. Such consideration should include: the fruit and vegetable scheme; the provision of appropriate farm advice; access to the European Innovation Partnership; and rural development funding. (paragraph 114)

196.  We recommend that the European Commission prepares guidance on the use of CAP instruments to support on-farm food waste prevention, particularly through the Rural Development Regulation and the Common Organisation of the Markets Regulation. (paragraph 115)

197.  We consider that an assessment of the impact on food waste of marketing standards for fresh fruit and vegetables would be particularly useful and should form part of the European Commission's evaluation of food law within its Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme. (paragraph 116)

198.  Further to reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, we urge swift progress on effective implementation of the discard ban, including the provision allowing an exemption for highly survivable species. Without such progress, the discard ban could have the perverse effect of hindering the prevention of food waste. (paragraph 120)

199.  There is a lack of clarity on the science relating to the feeding of catering waste to animals and of non-ruminant processed animal proteins to non-ruminants, such as pigs. We recommend, as a matter of urgency, specific review of the applicable legislation with a view to assessing recent scientific work and identifying gaps. A lifting of either restriction should only be considered if proven to be safe, and if the appropriate systems, including enforcement, are in place. (paragraph 127)

200.  We conclude that there is both confusion and a lack of expertise relating to the impact of EU food safety and hygiene rules on food waste prevention. The issues are not insuperable, but would benefit from guidance from the European Commission on the types of food that can be donated and on compliance with regulations. We are unconvinced of the need for a Good Samaritan Act due to the potential for perverse consequences. Such an Act should only be proposed if there is a clear problem to be addressed. (paragraph 133)

201.  We recommend that the UK Government work with the European Commission to establish whether the term "use by end of" would be consistent with the Food Information for Consumers (FIC) Regulation in order to ensure clarity of labelling for retailers and consumers. We also recommend that the European Commission review the implementation of the FIC Regulation, including public recognition of the respective dates and awareness of storage conditions. (paragraph 136)

202.  Food packaging often performs an important waste prevention function. We urge the European Commission to ensure that, in its review of the Packaging and Waste Packaging Directive, provisions are not introduced that may have the unintended consequences of discouraging innovative packaging that might help to prevent food waste. (paragraph 141)

Chapter 5: Respecting the 'waste hierarchy'

203.  We share the view of our witnesses that the waste hierarchy as applied to food is most effectively represented as a food use hierarchy, focused on prevention and redistribution to humans and animals, wherever possible. As this interpretation has not been formally recognised, we recommend that the European Commission publishes guidance on the application of the waste hierarchy to food. (paragraph 145)

204.  We conclude that there are fiscal tools available to support the redistribution of surplus edible food, ranging from value added tax (VAT) exemptions to tax deductions and tax breaks. We recommend that the European Commission communicates its agreed guidance on application of the VAT Directive, ensuring that it is publicised and is easily accessible on its website. (paragraph 150)

205.  Furthermore, we recommend that the European Commission undertakes an assessment of fiscal measures that might be adopted to encourage food redistribution, with a view to possible adoption by Member States. In the meantime, we recommend that the UK Government undertake their own assessment of how they might further promote the redistribution of food to humans by way of fiscal measures. Particular attention should be given to encouraging the redistribution of fresh, nutritious food. (paragraph 151)

206.  We welcome work underway in the UK to clarify what food waste from the retail and catering sectors is permitted to be fed to animals. We emphasise the urgency of the work and consider that publication of such work would also be helpful at the European level. (paragraph 155)

207.  We recommend that the European Commission assess policy and financial intervention throughout the food use hierarchy, publishing guidance for Member States on how such intervention can most effectively align with the hierarchy. Such guidance would helpfully include best practice at each stage of the hierarchy. (paragraph 157)

208.  Even if economic incentives are aligned with the food use hierarchy, energy and nutrient recovery will remain essential components of food waste management, as preferred options to disposal. Economic incentives to discourage landfill have been effective, but efforts must continue to reduce further the amount of landfill. (paragraph 161)

209.  As significant quantities of food waste are currently sent to landfill in the UK, we conclude that the provision of separate food waste collections remains, where feasible, an important aspect of moving food waste off the bottom rung of the hierarchy. We therefore note with interest the example of the Scottish Government in making separate collections obligatory for urban businesses. We recommend that the UK Government develop a best practice model for such separate collection, at both household and commercial level, for Councils throughout England. In turn, we recommend that the European Commission ensure that experiences with such collections are shared across the EU, including their impact on landfill volumes. (paragraph 162)

Chapter 6: Strategic EU role

210.  Research and innovation are core to progress in food waste prevention. Conceptually, FUSIONS is an excellent example of pan-EU collaboration in this area supported by EU research funding. We are concerned, however, that there is a serious risk that it will not meet expectations. We recommend that the European Commission monitor closely the work of FUSIONS, with a view to intervening if its progress fails to meet expectations. (paragraph 169)

211.  We fail to observe a clear and urgent strategic direction from the European Commission and Member States to reduce and prevent food waste. Efforts across the EU are fragmented and untargeted. The potential gains to be achieved from action are significant but policy makers have so far been paralysed by uncertainty. We reject the argument that action should be delayed until the costs of waste prevention further down the path are clearer. If the opportunity is not seized to drive action across the EU, Member States will count the costs. (paragraph 176)

212.  We recommend that, within six months of entry into office, the new European Commission publish a five-year strategy on food waste prevention. This should set out a Roadmap to address the issues raised throughout this inquiry and to ensure that best practice identified in one Member State can be easily translated into action elsewhere. It is also vital that coordination between the Directorates-General is improved, with clearer divisions of responsibility. (paragraph 177)

213.  We consider a non-legislative approach to be appropriate initially, encouraging Member States to take action, such as the preparation of measurable food waste prevention plans. Should sufficient action not be identified within five years of publishing the strategy, a legislative approach should be adopted by the European Commission. (paragraph 178)

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