Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Food waste 'morally repugnant'

More unused food should be donated to food banks, rather than sent for composting or landfill, a Lords committee said

Supermarkets should move away from offers such as "buy one get one free" to help end the "morally repugnant" waste of millions of tonnes of food, a House of Lords committee has said.

The Lords EU Committee also said big retailers should stop cancelling orders of food from farmers after the produce has been grown, a practice which leads to edible food being ploughed back into the fields. And they said that more unused food should be donated to food banks, rather than sent for composting or landfill.

Committee chairwoman Baroness Scott of Needham Market said the peers were "shocked" at the scale of food waste, which sees 15 million tonnes of food dumped each year in the UK and at least 90 million tonnes across the EU as a whole.

In a report, the committee said the EU's efforts to reduce food waste were "fragmented and untargeted" and called for the new European Commission to publish a five-year strategy within six months of taking office later this year.

Lady Scott 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 90 million 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. Globally, consumers in industrialised nations waste up to 222 million tonnes of food a year, which is equivalent to nearly the entire level of net food production of Sub-Saharan Africa.

"We cannot allow the complexity of the issues around defining and monitoring food waste to delay action any further. 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."

The report found that the carbon footprint of worldwide food waste is equivalent to twice the global greenhouse gas emissions of all road transportation in the US.

Lady Scott added: "There is also much that can be done domestically, and in particular by the big retailers, to reduce food waste. We are urging the supermarkets to look again at offers such as 'buy one get one free', which can encourage excess consumption which leads to food waste. We also think supermarkets must work much more closely with their suppliers so as not to cancel pre-ordered food which has been grown, is perfectly edible and is then ploughed straight back into the field.

"The UK Government have a role to play in encouraging co-operation throughout the supply chain. They can also consider whether tax incentives might be used to encourage retailers to ensure unsold food that is still fit for human consumption is actually eaten by people, for example by working with food banks, rather than sent to compost or for energy recovery, or even landfill, as is often the case at present.

"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."

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