MEPs present new proposals to cut food waste

MEPs have called for steps to lift the confusion caused to consumers by 'best before' and 'use by' labelling.

Biljana Borzan | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

12 Apr 2017

This, it is claimed, would help cut food waste in half by 2030.

At a meeting on Tuesday, members of the environment committee proposed several measures to help reduce the estimated 88 million tonnes of food that goes to waste in the EU each year.

Deputies called on EU countries to achieve food waste cuts by 30 per cent by 2025 and 50 per cent by 2030.


The proposals are part of the ongoing talks regarding legislation on the circular economy and waste management.

Committee members called on the European Commission to lift existing restrictions on food donations and said that a solution is needed for the confusion created for many consumers by the 'best before' and 'use by' labelling. 

Croatian Socialist MEP Biljana Borzan, who is drafting a report on the issue of food waste for Parliament, said, "In developed countries food is wasted mostly at the end of the chain, at distribution and consumption."

She added, "Everyone has a responsibility to tackle this problem."

Borzan said her report will call for a coordinated policy on labelling, liability and education, because "most consumers do not understand the precise meaning of 'best before' and 'use by' labelling."

The Commission will be asked to assess the possible benefits of removing certain dates for products without any risk to public health or the environment.

"We should also address the shortcomings of existing EU legislation where it hinders food donations. We need to update our common VAT system to allow for tax exemptions. A form of 'good Samaritan' legislation at EU level could lead to greater volumes of food being donated and reducing food being wasted, without compromising current standards of food safety", added Borzan.

On this, the Commission will be urged 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 (FEAD) should, say MEPs, be able to finance the cost of collecting, transporting, storing and distributing food donations.

The report by Borzan was adopted unanimously at Tuesday's meeting and will be put to a vote by the full plenary during the 15-18 May plenary session in Strasbourg.

In the EU, food waste has been estimated at some 88 million tonnes, or 173 kg per capita per year. The production and disposal of this food waste reportedly leads to the emission of 170 million tonnes of CO2 and consumes 261 million tonnes of resources. 

The highest food waste occurs in the Netherlands (541 kg per capita and per year) and Belgium (345 kg), the lowest in Slovenia (72kg) Malta and Romania (76kg).


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