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Lords Call for EU Action on Food Waste

10 April 2014

ANALYSIS - A report from the European Union Committee of the UK parliament's House of Lords calls for the redistribution of wasted food to different sections of society or into the animal feed chain, where appropriate, across the EU.

The investigation and the report from the Lords’ committee said that food waste has become a major public policy issue.

The report said that consumers in industrialised countries waste almost as much food as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa.

And the global carbon footprint of wasted food has been estimated as more than twice the total greenhouse gas emissions of all road transportation in the
United States.

However, the Lords have concluded that despite a compelling need for immediate action, “the development of a policy framework is bedevilled by the complexity of defining and monitoring food waste”.

The report says that in the early part of the supply chain on farms there is a challenge in specifying what precisely food waste is and because of this there has been little progress in forming an EU-wide food waste policy.

But the Lords said that the complexity of defining and monitoring food waste must not continue to prevent action.

“We support the development of EU-wide aspirational targets for each level of the supply chain, assisted by a strategic approach, in order to reduce food waste and to encourage action across Europe,” the Lords report says.

“The ultimate objective of such an approach should be to tackle food waste caused by a lack of cooperation between component parts of the supply chain.

“Retailers, we argue, lie at the heart of this approach. They influence the behaviour of producers, manufacturers and consumers but, thus far, have failed to take their responsibilities sufficiently “seriously.

The Lords committee said that the European Union should act to encourage cooperation throughout the supply chain.

“It must also look at its own regulatory framework and consider where that may impede food waste prevention throughout the component parts of the supply chain.

“The concept of the ‘waste hierarchy’ is intrinsic to the supply chain approach, and is linked to EU regulation.

“The hierarchy dictates the order in which waste should be managed, from prevention through to disposal.

“We recommend a food use hierarchy, which would place greater emphasis on the redistribution of surplus food to humans, through food banks and charities.

“If food is not suitable for human consumption, it should then be transferred to animals if safe to do so.”

The Lords said that the issue needs to be addressed because waste of environmental and economic resources represented by food waste is a serious cost to society.

They have called on the European Commission, working with the Member States, to take action but they add that the problem should also be tackled at a local and even individual level.

They added that the new European Commission should publish a five-year strategy on food waste prevention setting out a Roadmap to address the issues within six months of coming into office.

“There is clearly plenty of emerging will power to address the issue. What is now required is coordination of those efforts within a clear and urgent framework for action,” the Lords concluded.

Chris Harris

Chris Harris

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