Campaigners launch legal challenge over mandatory food waste reporting



Food industry environmental campaigners have launched a legal challenge to the UK government’s decision to keep a voluntary system for food waste measurement and reporting.

UK and Netherlands-based environmental campaign group Feedback has sent a pre-action protocol letter to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) Thérèse Coffey, which signals the start of the judicial review process.

Feedback called Defra’s decision “irrational”. It says the costs of mandating food waste reporting would prove cheaper for shoppers and “dramatically cut” food waste.

The campaign group has also claimed the consultation on whether to introduce mandatory measuring and reporting of food waste was unlawful because Defra’s decision was not based on a “reasonable or rational” view of the evidence.

Feedback says there was also a failure to take into account the advice of expert bodies such as the Climate Change Committee (CCC) and non-governmental organisation (NGO) WRAP. The NGO has demonstrated how the voluntary approach can deliver measurable outcomes, with the Courtauld Commitment reducing the UK’s food waste by 27% since its launch 17 years ago.

The government’s decision… is perplexing at best, and potentially illegal at worst.

Carina Millstone, Executive Director of Feedback, commented: “The government’s decision to scrap its plans to introduce mandatory food waste reporting for large and medium businesses is perplexing at best, and potentially illegal at worst.

“Our lawyers’ letter to the Secretary of State sets out why she must reverse her decision, which flagrantly ignores her own evidence, the advice of her own experts and the preference of the vast majority of consultation respondents.

“Mandatory food waste reporting is a no-brainer, and the government can’t simply ditch it if it is to tackle the climate emergency.”

Law firm Leigh Day is representing Feedback in its legal challenge.

Food waste reporting

Food waste

In a wide-ranging update to its 2018 Resources and Waste Strategy, Defra announced it will not mandate waste measurement and reporting for large food businesses until 2026, despite 80% of respondents to a 2022 consultation being in favour of a mandate.

Reacting to the announcement, Martin Bowman, senior policy and campaigns manager at Feedback, said: “After a decade of failed voluntary reporting, it is a dereliction of duty for the government to abandon this policy.”

Surplus food app Too Good To Go also expressed “concerns and disappointment” following the decision, calling it a “significant blow” to the UK’s efforts to reduce food waste.

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