The EU can – and should – do better in the fight against food waste according to the European Court of Auditors (ECA).
A new report published this week by the ECA, the EU’s independent external auditor, says that some EU policies make it possible to combat food waste, but that their potential is “barely being exploited”.
Food waste is a global problem, requiring action at all levels of the supply chain. According to current estimates, globally about one third of food for human consumption is lost or wasted. The economic and environmental consequences are severe.
The report describes action taken so far as “fragmented and sporadic”, and coordination at the level of the European Commission as “lacking”.
The latest EU proposal to stop food waste was the creation of a platform the auditors say “will not solve all the problems pointed out in the report”.
The lack of a common definition for food waste and a well-established baseline for targeting cuts in this area have impeded policy implementation despite repeated calls for a reduction in food waste from the European Parliament, the European Council, the Committee of Regions, the G20 and other bodies.
“In our report to the Commission, we note a number of missed opportunities and improvements that can be made without going through new legislative initiatives and without raising more public funding,” said Ms.Bettina Jakobsen, the member of the ECA responsible for the report.
She added, “But by focusing on creating a platform, the Commission is missing another opportunity to effectively address the issue. What we need now is a harmonisation of existing policies, better coordination and a clear policy objective to reduce food waste. “
Mrs Jakobsen stressed that the new platform proposed by the European Commission will not contribute significantly to the strategy to combat food waste. She said: “Our recommendations on how to develop future policy in this area have only been partially accepted when they have not been ignored. In its draft guidelines, the Commission merely transfers the problem to the Member States.”
The auditors make several recommendations including:
“Identifying and removing legal barriers to food donation, encouraging the use of existing donation opportunities, and considering how to encourage this practice in other policy areas.”
They may have taken their lead from the French on this particular point. Last year, France became the first country in the world to ban supermarkets (over 400 square metres) from throwing away or destroying unsold food.
The law, which came about after a grass roots movement, was passed unanimously and has meant millions more meals being donated to charities and food banks. It would seem that to tackle the problem, the implementation of similar measures is needed across all EU member states.