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EU actions against food waste

The European Commission is taking the issue of tackling food waste very seriously. Reducing food waste has enormous potential for reducing the resources we use to produce the food we eat. Being more efficient will save food for human consumption, save money and lower the environmental impact of food production and consumption.

The EU and the EU countries are committed to meeting the Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 target to halve per capita food waste at the retail and consumer level by 2030, and reduce food losses along the food production and supply chains.

In 2020, the German Presidency to the Council of the European Union assessed progress made by Member States and the EU in their work to prevent and reduce food losses and food waste, as compared to the Council conclusions on food loss and waste (adopted in 2016). The Council’s assessment highlighted milestones achieved at EU level, as well as measures taken by Member States, such as the development of national strategies, adoption of legislative and non-legislative initiatives and consumer awareness campaigns. The assessment also addressed activities undertaken to mitigate risks of food waste linked to COVID-19. Further information can be found on the Council’s dedicated page.

As called for by the new Farm to Fork Strategy, the Commission will seek to step up action to prevent food loss and waste across the EU. The Farm to Fork Strategy, adopted by the Commission as part of the European Green Deal, puts forward a series of actions to enable the transition to a sustainable EU food system that safeguards food security and ensures access to healthy diets sourced from a healthy planet.

Reducing food loss and waste is an integral part of the strategy’s Action Plan. The Commission will propose:

  • legally binding targets to reduce food waste across the EU, by end 2023, defined against a baseline for EU food waste levels set following the first EU-wide monitoring of food waste levels
  • a revision of EU rules on date marking (‘use by’ and ‘best before’ dates), by end 2022.

The Commission will also further integrate food loss and waste prevention in other EU policies, investigate and explore ways of preventing food losses at the production stage, and continue to mobilise all players by encouraging implementation of the recommendations for action of the EU Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste.

The Commission has already carried out important steps to prevent food losses and waste, in line with the actions put forward under the first Circular Economy Action Plan, adopted in 2015. The Revised EU Waste Legislation, adopted on 30 May 2018 by co-legislators, calls on the EU countries to take action to reduce food waste at each stage of the food supply chain, monitor food waste levels and report back regarding progress made.

The Commission has implemented all the actions foreseen under the Circular Economy Action Plan, such as elaborating a common EU methodology to measure food waste consistently; establishing the EU Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste; taking measures to clarify EU legislation related to waste, food and feed and facilitate food donation and use of food no longer intended for human consumption in animal feed; and examining ways to improve the use of date marking by actors in the food chain and its understanding by consumers.

Co-operation with EU member states and stakeholders

Through the EU Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste, the Commission is analysing in close cooperation with industry, consumer and other NGOs, research institutes and EU countries policy experts how to reduce food waste without compromising food safety, while also discussing options for possible EU actions. Prior to the establishment of the EU Platform, cooperation had been facilitated through the EU countries Expert Group and a stakeholder Working Group on Food Losses and Food Waste.

EU countries

In 2014, the Commission established a dedicated Working Group, with experts from Member States, to facilitate the sharing of learning and best practice in food waste prevention. In particular, the working group was set up to help the Commission and Member States to remove, wherever possible, any regulatory barriers or grey zones, existing either at EU or national level, which lead to food waste whilst ensuring safety of food and feed, as well as protection of animal health.

While this expert group may discuss and recommend policy options, it is the relevant working groups of the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (or other regulatory committees) which would consider these issues further, in their respective areas of competence.

Following establishment of the EU Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste in 2016, Member States have been invited to participate in this multi-stakeholder forum in order to facilitate exchange of experience, learning and best practice and accelerate the EU's progress towards the SDG food-waste related targets.

The Revised Waste Legislation, adopted on 30 May 2018, calls on Member States to reduce food waste at each stage of the food supply chain, monitor food waste levels and report back regarding progress made and delegates to the Commission the establishment of a common methodology to measure food waste levels in the EU. The Member States Expert group supports the Commission in preparation of the related Delegated Act that will lay down the common measurement methodology and its minimum quality requirements.

Draft Terms of Reference

Meetings

15 October 2018

9 July 2018

4 June 2018

16 March 2018

22 June 2016

24 April 2015

7 November 2014

Stakeholders

Tackling food waste means working together with all stakeholders in order to better identify, measure, understand and find solutions to deal with food waste. There is not one single cause with one solution because the food chain is a complex and dynamic system. All actors in the food chain need to work together to find solutions, from farmers, processors, manufacturers and retailers through to consumers themselves. Other food sector experts, research scientists, food banks and NGOs also play an important role.

This is why stakeholders are closely involved in the Commission's activities on food waste reduction. They contribute to and are consulted on possible options for EU actions in the context of the EU Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste.

Prior to the creation of the Platform, co-operation between the Commission and stakeholders was carried out through a Working Group on Food Losses and Food Waste. The group was established in 2012 under the Advisory Group on the Food Chain, Animal & Plant Health to support the Commission in sharing of best practices in food waste prevention and in identifying possible EU actions.

Documents from the Group's meetings:

28 October 2014

8 May 2014

8 February 2013

5 October 2012

EXPO Milan 2015

The European Commission organised the international conference "Fight Food Waste, Feed the Planet" in the context of Expo Milan 2015, which centred on the theme of global food and nutrition challenges.

"Fight Food Waste, Feed the Planet" (15 October 2015) aimed to contribute to the setting of EU and global directions for food waste prevention, focusing in particular on the importance of effective inter-sector co-operation from farm to fork. The conference gathered EU and international policy makers as well as all stakeholders involved in the food chain – from industry to non-governmental organizations, the scientific community and consumers – in order to share achievements to date and foster an open and action-oriented debate.

Results of a behavioural study on food choices and eating habits were also presented at the conference. The issue of food waste was investigated by means of two experimental studies carried out at EXPO, with 500 Milan EXPO visitors participating in the two studies. The first study investigated consumers’ decision to use or dispose non-perishable (long shelf-life) foods and how this was affected by date marking: the presence of a best-before date, a production date or absence of any date on the food package. The study highlights the importance of the "best before" date in reassuring consumers about product quality and safety throughout their shelf life. The presence of the "best before" date also reduces the likelihood of consumers throwing away foods before the end of the period indicated on the food labels.

The second experimental study investigated how to increase consumer acceptance of imperfect (strangely shaped) foods with effective communications. The results highlight that adding a promotional message increases consumers’ intention to buy imperfect foods, while combining price reductions and promotional messages leads to an even higher intention to buy imperfect foods.

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