European Commission ineffective over food waste

17 Jan 17

The European Union’s executive is failing to tackle food waste, which amounts to around 88 million tonnes per year, auditors have found.


Globally, around one third of the food produced is wasted or lost, which has both environmental and economic costs. The United Nations has estimated this costs $1.7bn every year.

The European Commission has committed to fighting food waste, but the EU’s auditors said this had not been translated into action.

Bettina Jakobsen, the member of the European Court of Auditors responsible for the report, said this was not because legislative changes or more public funding were needed.

Instead, existing policies and procedures needed to be improved for the EU’s efforts to be effective, in line with repeated calls from the European Parliament, European Council, the G20 and others.

Despite the increasing political importance of food waste, the commission had not yet established a common definition for the term, which hindered progress and the ability to set reduction targets as there was no agreed baseline.

She said that action taken so far had been “fragmented and intermittent”, with no EU-wide strategy and poor coordination both within the commission and between it and member states.

Barriers to donating food remained, there was a lack of clarity and consistency in legal provisions and their interpretation, and EU policies were not being exploited fully by the commission, auditors said.

A number of EU policy areas, such as the Common Agricultural Policy, could be used to prevent waste throughout the food supply chain, but auditors said there was a “notable lack” of assessments done on the effects they could have on food waste.

It seemed the commission’s ambition had “decreased over time”, Jakobsen said.

“Our report identified a number of missed opportunities and potential improvements,” she continued. “By focusing its efforts on establishing a platform, the commission again misses an opportunity to deal effectively with the problem.”

In its response to the report, the commission said it recognised the problem of food waste, and had identified it as a priority area and produced a “multifaceted action plan” to tackle it.

It said its ambition had “evolved” rather than decreased and listed a number of measures it was taking against food waste, including efforts to clarify EU legal provisions facilitating food donation.

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