Around 88 million tonnes of food are wasted annually in the EU, with associated costs estimated at 143 billion, and producing up to 170 million tonnes of CO2 emissions.
In a plenary vote in Strasbourg today, the European Parliament endorsed a proposal put forward by the Socialists and Democrats to cut food waste in half by 2030.
Among the measures, the Parliament is calling for are the lifting of existing restrictions on food donations, a better understanding for consumers of the “best before” and “use by” labels, and a secondary food market for fruits and vegetables left unsold for purely aesthetic reasons, or other marketing standards.
Food waste does not only mean that valuable and often scarce resources such as water, soil, and energy are being lost, it also contributes to climate change. According to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), food waste has a global carbon footprint of about 8% of all global greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans. For every kilo of food produced, 4.5 kilos of CO2 are released into the atmosphere.
There is also the ethical aspect: FAO says about 793 million people in the world are malnourished. According to Eurostat, 55 million people (9.6% of the EU’s population), were unable to afford a quality meal every second day in 2014,.
MEPs advocate efforts to halve by 2030 food waste in the EU, by lifting existing restrictions on food donations and eliminating confusion about “best before” and “use by” labels.
S&D spokesperson on the environment Miriam Dalli, said:
“On average, every European wastes 173 kg of food per year. So much could be done with that amount of wasted food. At the same time, one in ten EU citizens cannot afford a quality meal every other day. Wasting food costs a lot of money and creates additional emissions detrimental to climate change. Cutting food waste is an ethical, economic and environmental must.
“Under the leadership of the Socialists and Democrats, the European Parliament today endorsed proposals that aim at halving the annual amount of food wasted in the EU by 2030. We call on the Commission to come up with legislative proposals to implement our ideas on cutting food waste.”
“In many member states donating food is difficult and can even mean additional costs. Member states must make food donation easier by removing administrative hurdles and creating financial incentives instead. We call on the Commission to propose a change in the VAT directive that would explicitly authorise tax exemptions on food donations. The EU Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived should be used to pay for collecting, transporting, storing and distributing food donations.
“Fortunately, the conservatives failed in their efforts to torpedo our proposal to create a secondary market for products excluded from the primary market for purely aesthetic reasons. It is absurd to bar perfectly healthy fruit and vegetables from the market just because they are not the normal shape or size.”
Ulrike Müller MEP, shadow rapporteur for this report for the ALDE Group, said:
“Food waste happens at every stage of the food chain, but two measures will have the most meaningful impact. Firstly, we need more consumer information and education, because according to reports, consumers cause approximately 53 per cent of food waste.”