In a report, Counting the Cost of Food Waste: EU Food Waste Prevention, the Committee urges action on the basis that food waste represents a financial and environmental loss of resources.
The 15m tonnes of food wasted in the UK each year equates to a financial loss to business of at least £5bn per year.
The Committee finds that efforts across the EU to reduce food waste are “fragmented and untargeted” and calls on the new European Commission, to be established in November, to publish a five-year strategy on food waste prevention within six months of taking office.
The report also calls for retailers, and in particular the big supermarkets that dominate food sales in the UK, to act more responsibly in limiting food waste by both farmers and consumers.
In particular the Committee says that supermarkets should move away from incentives such as “buy one get one free” for certain types of produce, which may result in more food waste at home. They should also work harder to avoid cancelling orders of food that has already been grown by producers a practice, which leads to unsold, but perfectly edible, food being ploughed back into the fields or left unharvested. It is estimated that millions of tonnes of food is wasted annually in this way.
“Food Use Hierarchy”
The Committee calls for Government action to encourage retailers to redistribute unsold food, where safe, for human and animal consumption rather than to be recycled via anaerobic digestion. They suggest that VAT rates could be amended and tax breaks offered to encourage supermarkets to donate edible unsold food to food banks rather sending it to be composted.
This would form part of a refocussing of EU policy in this area away from a waste hierarchy toward a “food use hierarchy” that stresses the use by humans of food initially intended for human consumption.
The report also welcomes the review on legislation regarding the feeding of food waste to animals. The transfer of human food waste to animals should, however, only take place if scientific evidence establishes that it is safe to do so, it stated.
Commenting, Baroness Scott of Needham Market, Chairman of the Sub-Committee that conducted this inquiry, said: “Food waste in the EU and the UK is clearly a huge issue. Not only is it morally repugnant, but it has serious economic and environmental implications.
The fact that 90m tonnes of food is wasted across the EU each year shows the extent of the problem and explains why we are calling for urgent action.
“We are calling on the new European Commission, which will be appointed in November this year, to publish a five year strategy for reducing food waste across the EU, and to do so within six months of taking office…
Baroness Scott, Chairman of the Sub-Committee – “Food waste in the EU and the UK is clearly a huge issue. Not only is it morally repugnant, but it has serious economic and environmental implications”
“We were shocked at the extent of food waste in the EU. Especially given the current economic challenges the EU faces, it is an absolutely shocking waste of resources. Some efforts are already being made, which is very positive, but much more can be done, and so we are calling on the EU, the Government, businesses and consumers to make sure it is.”
Dr Liz Goodwin, WRAP CEO, which provided evidence to the inquiry, said of the report: “The House of Lords report is thoughtful and considered, and raises some challenging ideas, as well as some big issues that are critical to tackling the global problem of food waste.
“I have set out a vision to halve avoidable household food waste in the UK by 2025. We can do this by working together in a concerted effort, rolling out more widely the initiatives already under way and spreading best practice. We can all make a difference to impact global food security.
“Budgets are reducing as Governments work to tackle the budget deficit, but I have said that tackling food waste will remain a key focus of our work both in the UK and abroad. We are committed to making a big impact.”
“Feed People First”
In response to the report, the UK’s largest food redistribution charity, FareShare, is calling on the Government to make it easier for food business to divert their surplus food to charities.
Lindsay Boswell, FareShare CEO, said: “Every month FareShare redistributes enough food for a million meals yet 95 percent of surplus food is wasted in the UK. With 13m people living in poverty in the UK, it’s just plain wrong that good food is going to waste.”
Currently, 3.4m tonnes of food is wasted every year by the food industry in the UK, before it even reaches people’s shopping baskets. FareShare believes as much as 10 percent of that waste is fit for human consumption, enough for 800m meals.
Instead of being used to feed people, this surplus food is sent to landfill, fed to animals or turned into energy through anaerobic digestion.
Lindsay Boswell continues: “Being able to turn food waste into energy is fantastic, but while people are going hungry, edible food shouldn¹t be used to feed animals or create energy.
Currently, there are a number of Government incentives to turn food into energy, but these same incentives do not exist for feeding people. It just doesn’t make sense.”
For the full report CLICK HERE