Combating Food Waste: an opportunity for the EU to improve the resource-efficiency of the food supply chain(pursuant to Article 287(4), second subparagraph, TFEU)
SUMMARY:Food waste is a global problem that has moved up the public and political agenda in recent years. Food is a precious commodity and its production can be very resource intensive. Estimates show that up to one third of food is wasted or lost and therefore huge environmental and economic costs are at stake.
The audit examined the role the EU plays in combating food waste, the actions taken thus far and the way in which the various EU policy instruments work to reduce food waste. It focused on the actions of prevention and donation which are those most preferred in the fight against food waste.
This report concludes that the action to date has not been sufficient and that the EU strategy on food waste has to be strengthened and better coordinated. The Commission should explore ways of using existing policies to better fight food waste and loss.
Food waste is a global problem that has moved up the public and political agenda in recent years. It will grow in importance, especially given the need to feed the rising global population. Food is a precious commodity and its production can be resource intensive. Current estimates indicate that, globally, around one third of the food produced for human consumption is wasted or lost, with a consequent economic and environmental cost.II
Against this backdrop, the Court examined the role the EU can play in combating food waste. We looked at the actions taken thus far and how the various EU policy instruments work to reduce food waste. We focused on the actions of prevention and donation, which are those most preferred in the fight against food waste.III
The audit examined the question ‘Does the EU contribute to a resource-efficient food supply chain by combating food waste effectively?’ It found that currently it does not, but the report highlights the ways in which the current policies could be used more effectively to address the problem. Many of the potential improvements do not require new initiatives nor more public funding, but rather involve a better alignment of existing policies, improved coordination, and clearly identifying the reduction of food waste as a policy objective. Specifically, the audit found that:
- Despite the increasing importance of food waste on the political agenda, the Commission’s ambition has decreased over time. The action taken to date has been fragmented and intermittent, and coordination at Commission level is lacking. The lack of a common definition for food waste and of an agreed baseline, from which to target reductions in waste, has hampered further progress.
- Food waste is a problem along the entire food supply chain and therefore action should be targeted all along the chain with potential benefits for all those involved. Emphasis should be put on prevention, as the benefits of avoiding waste outweigh those of dealing with it later. Whilst there are a number of EU policies with the potential to combat food waste, this potential is not exploited and the opportunities offered have yet to be taken. There has been a notable lack of assessment of the impact of the various EU policies on the fight against food waste. Major policy areas, such as agriculture, fisheries and food safety, all have a role to play and could be used to better combat food waste. It must be recognised that, over time, policy changes, including reforms to the CAP and fisheries policy, have had a positive impact. For example the move away from intervention based agriculture policy reduced overproduction. The report highlights a number of good practices, but their positive impact was coincidental rather than as a result of targeted policy action.
- In terms of donation of food, a number of the barriers that currently exist, such as different interpretations of legal provisions, could be addressed to facilitate the donation of food that would otherwise be wasted.
The report makes three recommendations:
- The EU strategy to combat food waste should be strengthened and better coordinated. The Commission should build upon its initial steps to develop an action plan for the years ahead.
- In coordinating the various policies with the potential to combat food waste, the Commission should consider food waste in its future impact assessments and better align the different EU policies which can combat food waste.
- To facilitate the donation of food that would otherwise be wasted, the Commission could usefully clarify the interpretation of legal provisions that can discourage donation. The Commission should encourage further exploitation of existing possibilities for donation and consider how to facilitate donation in other policy areas.
Food waste is a recognised problem that has gained political and social importance in recent years. Numerous high level political statements formulated in the last decade express the need to combat food waste. It is generated all along the food supply chain at the stages of production, processing, retailing and consumption. Food waste can be defined in many different ways and there is no unique methodology for measuring it. Nevertheless, it is generally recognised that, at global level, around one third of the food produced for human consumption is wasted or lost1. The annual related economic and environmental costs of the waste worldwide are estimated, by the United Nations, to be some 1.7 trillion USD.
The audit topic
How to define food waste?02
At present there is no agreed definition of food waste at the EU level. Different definitions are being used by Member States, just as the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) uses its own definition2.03
In July 2014 the European research project Fusions proposed another framework to define food waste3 and in March 2016 it proposed a methodology for measuring and monitoring amounts of food waste4. More recently, a global Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard was published in June 2016 by a multi-stakeholder partnership5.04
For the purpose of this report, food waste refers to any product or part of a product grown, caught or processed for human consumption that could have been eaten if handled or stored differently. While it is acknowledged that this definition may not be directly compatible with the current EU regulatory framework, other definitions such as those used by Fusions, the FAO and the Member States visited in this audit are also at variance with that framework.
The waste hierarchy applied to food waste05
A waste hierarchy prioritises waste treatment actions from the most preferred to the least preferred based on environmental sustainability. The EU waste framework directive6 defines the EU waste hierarchy7. This hierarchy can be applied to food waste but should be slightly modified in order to take account of the particularities of food. Several Member States have adapted the waste hierarchy for food, with the order of preference as shown in Figure 1.
According to the definition of food waste used for this report, food waste constitutes the three bottom layers of the above hierarchy (recycling, other recovery and disposal). The top three layers (prevention, donation and animal feed) are actions that can be taken before food constitutes waste and are the most preferable (from an economic and environmental perspective). The focus of this audit is on prevention and donation, the two highest layers in the hierarchy.
Data on Food Waste07
According to the European Commission, around 88 million tonnes of food are wasted annually in the EU8. It is estimated that total EU food waste will rise to approximately 126 million tonnes by 2020 unless additional preventive action or measures are taken9. Data on food waste varies significantly according to the source. Evidently, one of the reasons for this is the different interpretation of what constitutes food waste (i.e. the lack of an agreed definition) and the different methodologies used for measuring it. Different studies present divergent data for each of the sectors of the food supply chain. Table 1 presents the results of a selection of those studies and shows that food waste occurs along the entire food chain, though care should be taken when comparing the results as the methodology and definition of food waste used are not homogeneous.
1 WRI analysis based on FAO 2011 Global food losses and waste — extent, causes and prevention. Rome: UN FAO. June 2013; http://www.mtt.fi/foodspill, 2011; https://www.fh-muenster.de/isun/lebensmittelabfall-projekte.php, 2012; ITAS-calculations based on the SIK-methodology (Gustavsson et al., 2013); Fusions, ‘Estimates of European food waste levels’, 2016.
2 The study recognises that ‘there is moderately high uncertainty around this estimate’ (page 27). In particular for the data related to the production sector, estimates are based on data from six countries only and ‘the estimated uncertainties of ± 17 % is probably underestimated’ (page 21).
Food waste is generated all along the food supply chain08
Situations which generate food waste can be very different but they occur at every stage of the food supply chain. Several studies have analysed the different ways in which food is wasted10. A number of situations are shown in Figure 2.
The cost of food waste09
The cost associated with food waste is made up of at least two different types of costs: the economic and the environmental costs. The economic cost includes not only the cost linked to the value of the products themselves, but also the costs linked to the production, transport and storage of the wasted products, as well as their treatment costs. From an environmental point of view, food waste represents a waste of the resources throughout the products’ life cycle such as land, water, energy and other inputs, and the consequent increase in greenhouse gas emissions.10
Due to the difficulties in obtaining complete, reliable and harmonised data on the current quantities of existing food waste, any estimate of the cost of waste will suffer from a lack of reliability. Nevertheless, some studies have tried to determine the cost of food waste and these figures can be used as indicators of the potential extent of the food waste issue.11
The FAO performed an assessment of the cost of food waste on a global scale and found that in addition to an estimated economic cost of 1 trillion USD per year (the value of the wasted products and the subsidies paid to produce them), envir-onmental costs (such as greenhouse gas emissions, water scarcity and erosion) reach around 700 billion USD11.
Food waste and market forces12
The reasons why food waste is generated differ according to the role of each actor in the food supply chain. Generally, decisions taken by business operators (producers, processors and retailers) are taken with the aim of maximising profit, even though some decisions may entail generating a certain amount of food waste. While the various operators do not intend to generate food waste, it is nonetheless often a consequence.13
Consumers take decisions which could lead to food waste for altogether different reasons. For them, it is rather a matter of obtaining satisfaction, whether in terms of meeting their nutritional needs or in other respects (e.g. quality, abundance, variety, price, etc.).14
The reasons why food waste is generated are intrinsically linked with the issue of who pays for the cost associated with the food wasted. As regards the economic cost of food waste, there are at least three different groups of actors who pay for it: consumers, specific food supply chain operators and charities.
- Operators in the food supply chain internalise the cost of food waste and include it in the final consumer price of the product. For example, a retailer will, very probably, set the product price high enough to take account of the cost of both sold and expected unsold products.
- Part of the cost of food waste may be shifted from one food business operator to another. For example when significant imbalances in bargaining powers exist between business operators, the cost of food waste may be pushed back to the weaker operator.
- Part of the cost of food waste can also be externalised to charities in the form of food donation. Charities often bear the sorting, storage, handling and treatment costs that otherwise would be paid for by the operators donating such food.
The environmental cost of food waste is paid for by society as a whole mainly through the growing scarcity of natural resources (which in the long term may be translated into an increase in the price of these resources). Annex I shows, using two concrete examples, how market forces influence the generation of food waste. While the report does not concentrate on these market forces, we acknowledge their importance when combating food waste. The Commission and the European Parliament12 have recognised the role these forces play in the food supply chain.
Food waste and the EU15
Food waste is a global problem. Even though the EU’s action as regards food waste will have, by definition, limited effects at world level, the EU, as an important actor on the international scene, may impact on the volume of food waste generated through the different policies for which it is responsible (such as the common agricultural policy, the common fisheries policy, the food safety policy, the waste policy). In this context, the Commission bears responsibility as it is the initiator of EU legal provisions that may have an influence on food waste generation.16
At the level of the European Commission, the Directorate-General (DG) for Health and Food Safety is in charge of the food waste file. In that context it takes a number of actions (such as establishing working and expert groups) and communication initiatives. Several other Commission DGs also have a role to play in food waste prevention since several of the EU policies and provisions can have an influence on the generation of food waste (such as the agricultural policy, the fisheries policy, the food safety policy, the waste policy) (see Annex II).17
The responsibility that Member States bear as regards food waste is equally important. Member States can favour or hinder food waste prevention and food donation depending on the way they enact EU provisions. Their responsibility is arguably even more important as they can also launch their own initiatives (outside the EU framework) to tackle food waste13.
Audit scope and audit approach18
There are many studies on food waste but none of these have focussed on the EU’s14 responsibility in this regard. The audit carried out by the Court therefore aimed to provide a comprehensive analysis of the topic of food waste, seen from an overall EU perspective.19
We recognise that the policies and legal provisions reviewed within the context of this audit have objectives other than that of preventing food waste. While not specifically addressing the problem of food waste, different EU instruments nevertheless have an effect on the behaviour of the different actors in the food chain. This behaviour may result in an increase or decrease in the amount of food being wasted. The EU has the ability to influence food waste through the different funds at its disposal and through the different provisions that affect the functioning of the actors in the food supply chain. This audit has concentrated exclusively on prevention and donation, as these actions are the two most preferred ways of fighting food waste according to the food waste hierarchy (see Figure 1).20
We identified the EU instruments (funds and legal provisions not linked to funds) included in Annex II as having an effect in terms of preventing food waste or/and in terms of facilitating donation. For the purpose of this report, we have classified the sectors of the food supply chain into four groups (producers, processors, retailers and consumers).21
The main objective of the audit was to assess whether the EU’s legal provisions and their implementation by Member States contribute to positive behaviour in relation to food waste by the various actors in the food supply chain. The overall audit question addressed was:
Does the EU contribute to a resource-efficient food supply chain by combating food waste effectively?22
The audit only considered the effect of policies and legal provisions as regards food waste in the EU itself and excluded the impact in countries outside the EU.23
This report firstly assesses the extent to which the Commission, as the executive arm of the EU, has translated the high level political statements to fight food waste into action. Secondly, it describes the opportunities to combat food waste that existing policies have missed.24
The time frame covered by the audit was:
- as regards the common agricultural policy (CAP) funds: both the period 2007-2013 and the period 2014-2020;
- as regards the European Fisheries Fund (EFF) and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF): the periods 2007-2013 and 2014-2020 respectively;
- as regards the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD): the period 2014-2020;
- as regards the legal provisions not linked to funds: the audit took into account those legal provisions in place at the time of the audit as well as published proposals for new provisions.
The audit was carried out from July 2015 to May 201615 and audit evidence was collected through:
- Documentary reviews and interviews with Commission departments. Six DGs were concerned by the audit: DG Health and Food Safety (SANTE), DG Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (GROW), DG Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI), DG Environment (ENV), DG Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (MARE), DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion (EMPL);
- Audit visits to five Member States: Italy (Lazio), the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania and Finland. In each of these Member States typically the Ministry of Agriculture (for the CAP and for EMFF), the Ministry of the Environment (for the strategy and subjects related to the waste directive), the Ministry of Social Affairs (for the FEAD), the Ministry of Health (for the Food and Hygiene Package) and the Ministry of Finance (for the financial stimuli) were visited. On-the-spot visits to relevant EU beneficiaries were also carried out;
- Consultation meetings with relevant stakeholders including Copa and Cogeca, Independent Retail Europe, representatives from WRAP (a UK charity), Somaro (a Romanian non-profit organisation) and the EU research project Fusions, a parliamentarian from the French National Assembly, representatives of a working committee of the House of Lords in the UK and with a UK representative in the UNECE standards committee meetings.
High level political statements have not been translated into sufficient action26
In recent years, the fight against food waste has gained in importance and has begun to appear on public agendas at all political levels (see Annex III). The European Parliament repeatedly asked the Commission (in 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2016) to take action towards reducing food waste. Member States have started setting targets to reduce food waste, and the Council of the European Union, the G20 and the United Nations have highlighted the need to combat food waste all along the food supply chain. Examples are:
- The European Parliament ‘asks the Commission, furthermore, to take practical measures towards halving food waste by 2025 and at the same time preventing the generation of bio-waste’ (2011);
- The G20 believes that ‘the reduction of food loss and waste is a good objective for G20 collective action’ (2015);
- The United Nations indicated in its agenda for sustainable development that, by 2030, it aimed to ‘halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses’ (2015);
- The Council of the European Union ‘supports efforts of all actors to reduce food waste, which will contribute to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 12.3, which aims at halving per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer level, and reducing food losses along production and supply chains including post-harvest losses by 2030’ (2016)16.
Despite these repeated political statements the Commission’s response has decreased in ambition over time and the action taken until now has been fragmented and intermittent.
Decreasing ambition in the Commission’s strategic documents over time27
The Commission should, as the executive arm of the EU, address the high level political statements formulated over the time. The Commission has, since 2011, published a number of documents committing itself to combating food waste:
- In September 2011, in its Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe17, the European Commission identified food as one of the key sectors where resource efficiency should be improved. The 2011 Roadmap also announced the publication of a ‘Communication on sustainable food’ in 2013 in which the Commission would, amongst other things, further assess how to limit food waste throughout the food supply chain. By June 2016, the above communication has still not been published;
- After a public consultation by the Commission in the summer of 2013 on the ‘sustainability of the food system’, which included a section on preventing and reducing food waste, in July 2014, the Commission published a proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council18 amending, among others, the waste directive. However, the proposal for a new directive on waste was withdrawn by the European Commission in December 2014 with the intention of replacing it with something ‘more ambitious’19;
- In December 2015, the Commission adopted a Circular Economy Package which included revised legislative proposals on waste. The issue of combating food waste is integrated in these proposals.
However, when analysing the above documents, we note that the Commission’s ambition in regard to food waste, has decreased over time. As shown in Figure 3, waste reduction targets have been lowered, the obligation for Member States to report on food waste has been delayed, the deadline for the Commission to adopt an implementing act to establish a common methodology for measuring food waste has been repeatedly postponed and there is still no EU-wide definition for food waste. Together with this, a baseline (a reference level for a given year) from which to target reduction in food waste has never been defined (see Box 1).
Why is a ‘baseline’ important?
In order to set meaningful targets for reducing waste and also to allow measurement of any initiatives that may be taken an agreed starting point or ‘baseline’, setting out the current level of food waste, is needed. Initiatives taken to date, by Member States and other NGO’s have claimed significant percentage reductions in waste but without a common baseline it is difficult to assess the relative success of such initiatives. The agreement of an EU baseline is therefore needed as part of any future EU food waste policy.
While there is no specific EU policy on food waste, various EU policies have or could have an impact on it. However, the Commission has not reviewed these policies in order to assess whether they are sufficiently aligned with the need to combat food waste (this is further developed in paragraphs 33 to 80). Member States have recognised the need to fight food waste and, given the lack of coordinated policy at EU level, have tackled the issue in a range of different ways including legislative approaches (see Box 2). Some Member States have also explicitly invited the Commission to take action at EU level (see Box 3).
Member State’s response to the food waste issue: from encouragement to legislative action
In France, a law on combating food waste was enacted on 11 February 2016. The main features of the French law are that (a) it clarifies the waste hierarchy in the case of food waste; (b) it introduces fines in case business operators make safe food voluntarily inedible; and (c) it introduces the obligation for supermarkets to sign an agreement with non-profitable organisations to donate food that otherwise would be wasted. As regards this last point, the French law does not establish the proportion of food to be donated. So, if the supermarket signs an agreement to donate 1 % of such food, it is already complying with the law.
Member States have sought EU coordinated action to fight food waste
In July 2015, the UK House of Lords launched the very first Green Card20 on food waste on behalf of the UK government, co-signed by the chairs of committees in 15 other national parliaments and chambers, inviting the European Commission to adopt a strategic approach to food waste reduction. The Green Card acknowledged that ‘an EU-level strategy could help to ensure a coordinated approach to tackling this issue’. The Commission promised in its answer to ‘pay particular attention to (the) suggestions’ within the framework of the Circular Economy Package. (The limitations of this Package in relation to the fight against food waste are described in paragraph 28 and illustrated by Figure 3).
Fragmented and intermittent action at the technical level30
Whilst acknowledging that food waste has been a subject of discussion in multiple fora (e.g. High Level Forum for a Better Functioning Food Supply Chain), the Commission’s action at a technical level has been limited to establishing working and expert groups. These groups were set up to consult stakeholders and to support the Commission as well as Member States in identifying ways to prevent and reduce food waste without compromising food safety. In 2012, the Commission established a Working Group on food losses/food waste (further referred to as the Working Group). Participants in this working group were stakeholders in the food supply chain21 and representatives from different departments of the European Commission22.31
In 2014, an Expert Group on food losses and food waste was set up by the Commission (further referred to as the Expert Group). Participants in this Expert Group were Member State representatives and representatives from the various European Commission23 directorates concerned. This Expert Group has met twice so far. In autumn 2015, the Commission invited Member State experts to participate in a dedicated conference on food waste prevention in October 2015, in the context of Expo 2015. In April 2016 the Commission published a call for proposals to participate in the new platform launched to deal with food waste issues. It has not been clarified whether this platform will work in addition to the Expert Group or if it will replace it.32
The meetings of the working and expert groups did not take place often enough to create a momentum for real change (see Box 4). Moreover, action on food waste suffered from a lack of continuity due to changes in the areas of responsibility within the Commission24 on the one hand, and to a change in the meeting participants on the other hand.
No real signs of progress by the Working Group and by the Expert Group:
- Since the first meeting in October 2012, the need for clarification on food donation has been highlighted. In May 2014 DG SANCO stated that it would work on developing EU guidelines to facilitate donation. As of June 2016, no guidelines have been published (see also paragraph 72).
- In February 2013, the Commission indicated that it would look into the fact that some Member States withdraw products which are past their best before date from the market. In November 2014, the expert group identified a need for EU guidance regarding the marketing of foods which are past their best before date. As at June 2016 there is no such guidance.
- The possibility of extending the list of products which do not need a best before date (Annex X of Regulation (EU) No 1169/201125) was mentioned by the Commission in May 2014. Due to a lack of information (e.g. on the actual impact of such a measure on food waste, on the behaviour of consumers, on how to determine which products to add to the list), no concrete action has been taken so far. The Commission has indicated that it will carry out a research study on date marking and food waste prevention.
- Several issues that were raised in the meetings were not followed up on further. These included the European Innovation Partnership (EIP) potential to help reduce food waste, the possibility of stimulating short supply chains, or the need to look across all relevant policy areas.
Existing policies could be better aligned to combat food waste more effectively33
The EU influences the daily lives of people in Europe in a number of ways, for example through regulations or directives, sometimes also through funding for projects, investments or for certain practices, thus stimulating certain types of behaviour. We have looked at a number of EU policy areas that are likely to influence the behaviour of the different actors in the food supply chain with respect to food waste (agriculture, fisheries, food safety, environment, social affairs and taxation). Whilst avoiding food waste is not a primary objective of these policies, our work focused on those aspects that could either help to prevent food waste or facilitate the donation of food. We identified a number of opportunities to integrate the fight against food waste into existing policies. These opportunities have yet to be exploited.
Alignment of policies for improved food waste prevention
Common agricultural policy (CAP)34
Food waste occurs along the entire food supply chain (see Table 1). Through direct payments, market measures and rural development payments, the CAP can have an influence on the generation of food waste in the production, the processing and the retail stages of the food supply chain. In addition, given that the new CAP strongly emphasises the concept of resource-efficiency26, it is reasonable to expect that the subject of food waste would also be addressed by the CAP.
Historical evolution of the CAP and current nature of direct payments35
In the early years of the CAP, fixed product prices and export refunds provided farmers with incentives to produce agricultural products. Between the 1970s and the early 1990s, this led to surpluses and huge stockpiles of products such as butter, skimmed milk powder, cereals and beef across the EU. Aid rates were significantly reduced under the 1992 CAP reform, and coupled direct payments27 were introduced to compensate for the decrease. From 2005 onwards, the decoupling of direct payments from production was a further step towards a market-based CAP. EU export refund expenditure has fallen since the 1990s and now all export refunds rates are set at zero.36
Following these successive CAP reforms, production surpluses decreased drastically and the level of intervention stocks declined. By moving away from product support to producer support, the overproduction in earlier years was effectively reduced, which probably contributed to reduce food waste.37
Nowadays, the majority of direct payments no longer directly support the production of a specific crop or product; they contribute only indirectly to the production of agricultural products by giving financial support to producers. In 2013, EU direct payments amounted to 41.7 billion EUR. According to Faostat data, in the same year the EU produced the following quantities of products (see Table 2). Figure 4 shows the yearly food waste volumes for agricultural products worldwide. Whilst these two sets of figures are not directly comparable they show that EU support is given, either directly or indirectly, for products where significant waste occurs at global level.
|Cereals||Starchy roots||Oil crops and pulses||Fruits||Meat||Milk and eggs||Vegetables|
A limited proportion of EU direct payments (around 6 % in 2014) is still linked to production. In this context, Member States may use VCS (voluntary coupled support). Through this scheme (available since 2015), most Member States have increased their share of coupled support of their direct payments. In 10 Member States, the share of coupled payments has increased by more than 10 percentage points (e.g. in Poland they represented 3.5 % of direct payments in 2014 rising to 15 % in 2015). In five further Member States, this share has increased by more than seven percentage points. The most important sectors receiving coupled payments are: beef (41 % of the total); milk (20 %); sheep and goats (12 %) and protein crops (11 %).39
Coupled support ‘may only be granted to those sectors or to those regions of a Member State where specific types of farming or specific agricultural sectors that are particularly important for economic, social or environmental reasons undergo certain difficulties28’. When taking the example of the dairy sector, figures show that several Member States (Czech Republic, France, Poland, Italy, Spain, Lithuania, Slovakia and Malta) support all of their dairy farmers by using VCS. As the support is linked to the number of dairy cows notified by the Member States, in practice it can provide an incentive for maintaining or even increasing existing production, even though the regulation intends to prevent this29. The audit found examples where this occurred and the Commission acknowledges that this risk is not covered by their checks. From a food waste perspective, coupled payments stimulate the production of specific products for which there is a risk that demand does not exist.40
The Commission has not undertaken any studies on the impact of the successive CAP reforms (including decoupling) on the quantities of agricultural production and on the estimated effect of this on the generation of food waste. It has never included any assessment of food waste in its impact assessments for EU direct payments and has not assessed the extent of the effect of coupled payments on stimulating the supply of specific products for which there is a risk that demand does not exist (see Figure 4).
Market intervention measures (public intervention, private storage, market withdrawals, green harvesting and non-harvesting) represent a small proportion of the CAP budget, and their use has steadly declined since the mid 1990s, after the 1992 CAP reform. These measures are used to support the removal of (future) supplies that are surplus to demand when prices become weak. The products may either be stored until the market price increases and then returned to the market for sale, export or donation, or may be disposed of in another way (e.g. destroyed). Therefore market measures directly generate, in the case of green harvesting and non-harvesting, food waste and may result, particularly for market withdrawals, in food being wasted.42
According to the Commission, market measures are intended to meet two main objectives: (a) continued market orientation and (b) a safety net for farmers in case of strong market disruptions30. However, the Commission has not defined the extent of the safety net and depending on how the market measures are used, only one of these two objectives may be reached. A quote from a Swedish study31 illustrates the relation between the use of market measures and food waste: ‘When prices are so low that the situation is considered a crisis, the EU agricultural policy offers support to growers. If those funds are used for supporting a situation of structural overproduction and not only during immediate crises, this can have the effect of not only cementing a structural imbalance but also of increasing waste’.43
The usage of the public intervention mechanism has steadily declined since the 1992 CAP reform. Most of the products stored under public intervention returned to the market or were donated to people in need and current stock levels are very low. However, stocks have recently started to increase again32. In this context the possibility of distributing products free of charge may gain importance. However, the legal arrangements to make this possible are currently not in place (see paragraphs 75 and 76).44
Between 2008 and 2015, in the EU, 1.8 million tonnes of fruit and vegetables were withdrawn from the market and over 45 500 ha of land were harvested before maturity or have not been harvested. The EU paid 380 million euros in compensation for this to the producers concerned. According to the Commission’s figures, 66 % of the products withdrawn were wasted. Besides this direct cost (the paid compensation to producers) the total cost of food waste should take into account the production costs and transport costs of the products as well as the costs of treating the waste generated. In addition, the associated environmental costs throughout the products’ life cycle should be taken into account.45
Every year, thousands of tonnes of products are affected by these market measures and a proportion of them is destroyed. It is therefore appropriate to assess the potential impact of planned market measures on the generation or prevention of food waste. This kind of assessment was not carried out in the context of the recent CAP reform or for the market measures taken since 2014 (responding to the Russian import ban and the producer price crisis); the latter despite the European Parliament’s resolution of July 2015 calling on the Commission, ‘when conducting an impact assessment on new relevant legislative proposals, to evaluate their potential impact on food waste’ (see Annex III).
Export refunds may have given an incentive in the past to the production of agricultural products for which a considerable level of food waste is generated at global level. At the World Trade Organisation meeting in Nairobi on 19 Dec-ember 2015 it was agreed to abolish export subsidies. This decision may help to prevent such potential over-production.
School milk scheme and school fruit scheme47
Under the School Milk Scheme, the EU subsidises the cost of various milk products distributed to children in schools. Under the School Fruit Scheme, the EU provides school children with fruit and vegetables, with the aim of encouraging good eating habits in young people33. Both schemes provide for accompanying measures, with the measures being mandatory for the fruit scheme and optional for the milk scheme. According to the current regulation, the accompanying measures for both schemes ‘may include information on measures for education about (…) combating food wastage’34. However, at the time of the audit, no Member States had yet taken the opportunity to use the accompanying measures of the school milk scheme to pass on educational messages about the generation and prevention of food waste. For the school fruit scheme, only some Member States have used the mandatory accompanying measures for this purpose35.
The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) has the potential to contribute to reducing food waste in primary production and in the food processing sector (for example by helping to reduce on-farm mortality of animals, by helping to reduce harvest losses, by improving storage conditions or by helping to reduce losses during processing).49
Despite the fact that food waste reduction is not specifically mentioned in the different regulations on rural development, action to reduce food waste can be financed through several measures, such as knowledge transfer and information activities, investment in physical assets (e.g. less damaging equipment, improved post-harvest storage, adapted animal housing to reduce sickness and mortality), animal welfare payments or cooperation activities36. Article 53(3) is the only article of the rural development regulation that refers explicitly to the potential of the EIP network to ‘reduce post-harvest losses and food wastage’.50
The Commission has not specifically encouraged Member States to use EAFRD funds to combat food waste. For their part, the Member States audited did not specifically mention food waste or refer to combating food waste as a need or objective of their programmes for 2007-2013 and 2014-2020, even though they had the opportunity to do so. Nevertheless, several of the Member State author-ities visited during the audit recognised the potential of the EAFRD to contribute to reducing food waste and they presented concrete project examples to demonstrate it (see Box 5). These examples are not, however, the result of a strategic and planned approach to fighting food waste, but more a coincidental effect of EAFRD implementation in those specific Member States. At the time of the audit, most Member States had only started to establish their EIP agreements and projects, meaning that it is currently difficult to provide an overview of food waste issues which have been included in the EIP’s activities.
Examples of rural development projects in Italy that contributed to reducing food waste
A. Financing of a cereal storage silo which drastically reduced (from around 12 % down to 0.2 %) waste of cereals due to moulds and pollution by birds and rodents.
B. Financing of investment in a dairy cow shed (moving from a tie-stall to a free stall with mattresses, scrapers, etc.) led to improved animal welfare and hygiene conditions, which in turn led to a reduction in the number of cows with mastitis and in the volume of milk wasted.
Despite some good examples, the EAFRD’s potential to help reduce food waste at the level of producers and processors has not yet been fully exploited.
Common fisheries policy (CFP)52
Fishermen do not only catch the fish they specifically target or are authorised to fish. Until recently, the unwanted parts of their catches were discarded at sea, often dead. This was seen by many as an unacceptable waste of scarce resources. In 2013, a reform of the common fisheries policy (CFP) was approved, aimed at putting an end to this practice by introducing the landing obligation. Through the European fisheries funds37, Member States had/have the opportunity to finance projects for preparing the landing obligation and for positively influencing the survival rate of fish in aquaculture. Another element of the CFP reform that potentially impacts food waste generation is the abolition of compensation for market withdrawals of fish (see paragraph 61).
Discards at sea and landing obligation53
The European Parliament and the Council consider that ‘unwanted catches and discards constitute a substantial waste’ and they have established an obligation to land all catches (‘the landing obligation’)38. The landing obligation is being introduced gradually, between 2015 and 2019. Under the landing obligation all catches have to be kept on board, landed and counted against the quotas. Species that have a high chance of survival when released under certain conditions may be exempt. According to the regulations, undersized fish cannot be marketed for direct human consumption purposes.54
According to the Commission, the aim is to reduce discard rates from 15-25 % to 5 %39. However, discard rates vary according to the type of fishing, species and year (e.g. discards when fishing close to or on the sea bed (demersal fishing) in the North Sea are on average 40 % of the catch40, total discards in the Mediterranean are estimated at 18.6 % of the total catch41). The Commission plans to set more refined targets by species or by geographical area in the EU’s multiannual plans that are currently under development.55
It is clear that the landing obligation has the potential to help to reduce food waste if it is correctly implemented; that is, if it leads to increased selectivity, thus reducing the quantity of unwanted catches (such as undersized fish). On the contrary, if the fishing activity does not become more selective, all the edible fish caught that cannot be used for human consumption (e.g. because of minimum size requirements) will constitute food waste according to the definition used for this report.56
In order to more effectively monitor the implementation of the landing obligation, it is important to have reliable data on catches and discards. However, some of these data are not yet readily available at Commission level because:
- the electronic fishing logbook42 for fishing vessels of a certain size has not been fully implemented in the Member States;
- despite the obligation, since 1 January 2010, for fishermen to record estimates of all discards over 50 kg in their fishing logbook, there is no obligation for Member States to send these discard data to the Commission;
- the requirement to record authorised discards, as well as species below the minimum conservation size (previously discarded,) as separate entries in the electronic logbook, was only introduced in May 2015.
In the absence of this data it is difficult to obtain information on the scale of food waste in relation to fish.
The Fisheries Funds57
Through the European Fisheries Fund (EFF) and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), Member States had/have the opportunity to finance projects that facilitate the implementation of the landing obligation, such as investments in selective fishing gear, equipment for dealing with unwanted catches on board, research concerning survival rates of fish, investments for processing discards on shore, etc. Four of the five Member States visited used the EFF in particular to finance research projects or projects for developing and testing more selective fishing gear (see Box 6), but the number of this type of projects was very small in two of those Member States. Projects to facilitate the implementation of the landing obligation can also be financed through the EMFF, but since the oper-ational programmes were approved by December 2015, no projects had yet been selected for financing at the time of the audit.58
Through the EMFF, Member States may also finance projects that have a positive influence on the survival rate of fish in aquaculture. In one of the Member States visited, the EFF has been used to finance projects to combat fish diseases, thus increasing the survival rate of the fish in the fish farms concerned43.59
Both the EFF and the EMFF can potentially help to reduce food waste, even if this is not explicitly stated in the relevant regulations. This potential has yet to be fully realised in the Member States visited.
Good example of an EFF project in the Netherlands that helps to prepare the fisheries sector for implementing the landing obligation
The project concerned the development of (1) a more selective fishing net for flatfish fishing; (2) an automated discard separation system on board and (3) improvements in the on-board fish processing line, in order to increase fish survival chances (and thereby obtain an exemption from the landing obligation).
The project results showed a reduction in discards thanks to the new fishing net (10-15 % of estimated discards after the project versus 22 % discards before). However, catches are lower too since some of the fish targeted escape through the net. The automated discard separation system is meant to minimise the additional on-board work load caused by the obligation to land all catches. Thanks to the use of wet tanks at the beginning of the processing chain, caught fish stay alive until sorting and may thus have higher chances of survival when discarded. Research is still ongoing to measure survival rates.
Withdrawal of fish60
In the 2007-2013 period, the EU paid compensation to Member States for withdrawing fish from the market when the price of fish was too low. In 2007-2014, 25.4 million euros was paid to Member States for fish withdrawn (on average 3.2 million euros per year). This corresponds to 51 386 tons of fish (on average 6 423 tons of fish per year). There is no information available on the quantities of fish that were destroyed or used for other purposes such as fishmeal. According to the Commission, the only certainty with respect to the final destination of this fish is that it was not used for direct human consumption.61
In its communication on the reform of the CFP, the Commission states that ‘spending public money to destroy fish is no longer justifiable’. This was also confirmed by the public consultation carried out by the Commission in 200944. Moreover, the system no longer reflected ‘the changing balance in supply and demand’. The new CMO regulation on fisheries and aquaculture that entered into force in 201445 no longer grants any financial compensation for market withdrawal and destruction of fish. Producer organisations can still decide to withdraw fish from the market46, but at their own expense. By abolishing compensation for market withdrawals of fish, the European Union gave a clear signal to European fisheries to abolish wasteful practices and better align fishing activities with demand.
Food safety policy62
The European Commission’s food safety policy is aimed at ensuring that food products are safe for the public to eat. To this end, the Commission takes legislative action and monitors whether Member States ensure that retailers, manufacturers and food producers adhere to the rules. Food safety and hygiene rules are primarily intended to guarantee that foodstuffs are safe for consumption. Nevertheless, when implementing such rules in practice, care should be taken not to risk generating food waste by exceeding the essential requirements of food safety. The audit identified a number of areas where further efforts are still necessary by the Commission and Member States with respect to preventing food waste, related to the exchange of good hygiene practices, traceability requirements and date labelling.
Guides to good hygiene practice63
‘Guides to good hygiene practice’ are practical guides developed by specific sectors in the Member States (e.g. the retail sector, flour milling industry, bottled water industry), on how to comply with general food hygiene legislation and related requirements. The guides give advice and provide guidance to businesses on how to comply with the applicable hygiene regulations, such as how to conduct an assessment of the risks to food safety within their business, how to apply precautions to deal with these risks, or how to deal with temperature control, pest control, etc. Such guides allow safety requirements to be tailored to specific situations and food waste to be potentially reduced because the requirements set are only as strict as actually needed to meet the required level of safety.64
The European Commission keeps a register of national guides to good hygiene practices with the aim of exchanging good practice between Member States and food business operators. However, for some Member States, this register contains outdated information and guides that are no longer active. Other Member States do not oblige the private companies, that have developed these guides, to make them public. Despite the existence of the register, several Member States visited have expressed their concern about the fact that there is insufficient exchange of knowledge in this area at EU level.
Recalls and withdrawals65
In the case of product recalls or withdrawals for reasons of food safety, traceability is crucial. The more refined a traceability system is, the smaller the risk of food waste because the products to be recalled/withdrawn can be identified with greater precision. The General Food Law47 requires operators to have a traceability system capable of tracing a product by a ‘one step forward and one step back’ approach48. Directive 2011/91/EU49 determines that a foodstuff should carry indications or marks identifying the lot to which it belongs, but it does not require any reference to the size of the lots. In practice, the implementation of such lot traceability differs from company to company.66
Four out of the five Member States50 visited during the audit did not establish any further requirements or guidance related to the size of the lots and the author-ities of only two of the Member States51 visited declared that they encouraged producers and processors to adopt small lot sizes (see Box 7). The information gathered in the Member States visited showed that the quantities recalled are sometimes difficult to estimate and often the information required to identify the products in need of recall is too vague. The code that identifies the quantities to be recalled is not uniform; it can be a lot number or an expiry date, and the corresponding quantities per lot can be very different, even for similar products.
Good practice regarding traceability in Finland
The Finnish authorities have drawn up a food information guide establishing that the maximum volume of one lot should be one day’s production. Food products produced on the same day and containing the same ingredients may thus form a lot.
According to the Finnish authorities, preventing food waste in recall situations has been considered case by case. One example of this was a governmental decision in 2014 which was intended to reduce the food waste caused by the exceptional Russian import ban and permitted food with labels in Russian only to be sold subject to certain conditions, and provided that information on the product contents was available in writing in Finnish in the vicinity of the product.
Dates on labels67
Ambiguous date labelling of foodstuffs is a major factor contributing to confusion about food safety among consumers. Date labels should be sufficiently clear for consumers in order to avoid unsafe food from being eaten and safe food from being discarded. According to EU law52, products must be labelled with either the best before date or the use by date. The ‘best before date’ (or ‘date of minimum durability of a food’), means the date until which the food retains its specific properties when properly stored, and the ‘use by’ date, indicates the last day on which the product is considered to be safe.68
Despite the authorities’ initiatives to circulate information on this in the Member States visited, the ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates are used in different ways by producers/processors/retailers. Identical (or very similar) products may carry either the ‘use by’ or the ‘best before’ dates promoting confusion and resulting in perfectly edible food being thrown away, as highlighted by the examples collected during the audit (see Box 8). Moreover, as illustrated by the results of the Flash Eurobarometer 425 survey, consumers are not fully aware of the differences between the ‘best before’ and the ‘use by’ dates, as only 47 % of the people interviewed had identified the correct definition for the ‘best before’ date and only 40 % for the ‘use by’ date, with significant differences between Member States53.
Date labelling practices — examples
A study called ‘Date labelling in the Nordic countries’54 investigated how companies determine the shelf life of their products. For all the products in the study, there were major variations in shelf lives between similar products. For some products the longest shelf life in days, as marked by one retailer, was twice as long as the shelf life determined by another retailer.
During the audit, the Court found several examples of products that were very similar but used different types of dates:
- Parma ham (Italy): a product had a ‘use by’ date (da consumare entro) and another product had a ‘best before’ date (da consumarsi preferibilmente entro);
- Cheese (Romania): a product had a ‘use by’ date (expira la) and another product had a ‘best before’ date (a se consuma, de preferinta, inainte de).
The different dates may cause confusion amongst consumers resulting in the discarding of food which is perfectly safe to eat.
According to the EU provisions, products requiring a ‘best before’ date can still be sold after that date. Nevertheless, to date, there are still Member States where it is illegal to sell products after the best before date (e.g. Romania, Slovakia) (see also Box 9).
Example of date labelling rules not being correctly applied (Romania)
In Romania the national legislation (Government Decision 984/2005) does not distinguish between ‘best before’ or ‘use by’ dates but refers to the ‘expiry of the product validity’. The same text states that it is forbidden in Romania to sell/place on the market/donate products that have passed their ‘expiry date’. Government Ordinance OG no. 21/1992 concerning consumer protection (updated in 2008) does use the correct date labelling terms but indicates that products may be sold only if they are within their ‘use by date’/‘date of minimum durability’. The meaning of the different dates and the possibility of continuing to sell and consume a product after the best before date has therefore not been clarified in Romania.
Clarification and alignment of the policies and provisions for facilitating the donation of food70
Donating food is the second most preferred option before food constitutes waste (see paragraphs 5 and 6). In the EU, there is a strong culture of food donation, and the Commission has also recognised the importance of facilitating food donation as a way to reduce food waste in the EU55. At the level of the different EU policy areas, there are still a number of barriers to donation, such as a lack of clarity in existing legal provisions, missing legal provisions or legal provisions that are not used in practice. Overcoming these barriers would contribute to aligning the EU policies for facilitating the donation of food.
A lack of clarity in existing legal provisions
Both Article 4 of the waste framework directive56 and the 2015 proposal for a directive amending several waste directives specify the waste hierarchy to be applied in the European Union (see paragraph 5) but do not specify how this order of priorities should be applied in the specific case of food and do not include a definition of the term ‘food waste’. Thus, the EU texts do not clarify whether donated food should be counted as wasted food or, on the contrary, whether donation should be considered to be a way of preventing food from being wasted57. This, in turn, has implications for monitoring food waste58 and for taking actions to reduce food waste.
Food safety policy72
The food hygiene legislation from 2002 does not clarify the obligations of food banks or other charities when handling donated food. In particular, EU law59 does not specify whether food banks and charities are to be considered ‘food business operators’60 and hence have to comply with food laws. Member States have thus adopted different interpretations for food banks and other charities dealing with donated food (see Box 10). Since 2013, several Member States have themselves developed their own guidelines for food banks and charities, clarifying donation with regard to liability issues and explaining how to interpret food safety factors such as expiry dates, traceability, labelling and freezing of foodstuffs. The Commission has now gathered national and sectorial guidelines on food redistribution shared by various actors on its website to promote the exchange of good practice between Member States. Although there have been repeated calls from the Commission itself since 2012 for EU guidelines on food donation to clarify this issue, at the time of the audit, in June 2016, the Commission indicated that they were still working on a first draft of these guidelines61. Therefore, the Commission has still the potential to contribute to clarifying existing legal provisions in this regard.
Examples of different interpretations in Member States as regards the roles and responsibilities of food banks and other charities in relation to the food hygiene legislation:
In Romania, charities or non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are not considered food business operators. This results in an unclear situation as regards their liability when dealing with donated food. In Portugal, charities are assimilated as ‘food business operators’, but as they are not the main intended subjects of the hygiene regulations, the rules and principles deriving from these regulations are applied with a certain degree of flexibility. In Italy, recognised charity organisations that are freely distributing food to deprived people are treated in the same way as other food business operators from the point of view of liability linked to the correct storage, transportation and use of foodstuffs.
Value added tax73
Fiscal incentives for food donation are seen by many stakeholders as the most powerful tool for incentivising donation. Discussions on fiscal incentives at EU level have concentrated on how VAT should be applied to donated food. This has been the subject of numerous meetings held by the Commission. The EU’s VAT legislation does not constitute, per se, a barrier to donation for those types of foodstuffs, but the interpretation of that legislation by certain Member States may still represent a barrier to donate food (see Box 11).
Application of VAT on food donated62
Following requests from Member States in 2012 and 2013, both the European VAT Committee and the Commission have undertaken, on several occasions, to clarify how VAT should be applied to donated foodstuffs, in line with the VAT directive. Their clarification states that VAT on donated food is due, but Member States may consider that the value on which the VAT is calculated may be low or close to zero if donation takes place close to the ‘best before’ date or if the goods are not fit for sale. Therefore, where the VAT to be paid on donated foodstuffs is low or close to zero, donated foodstuffs for the purpose of VAT are treated in the same way as discarded foodstuffs.
Nevertheless, the term ‘not fit for sale’ can be interpreted in different ways and can thus cause uncertainty amongst potential donors of foodstuffs, especially in those Member States where the interpretation is left to the potential donor. Umbrella organisations have raised concerns about the fact that such uncertainty may discourage actual donation for fear of breaking the rules. In practice, VAT on donated goods is treated differently in different Member States. In Portugal, the VAT to be paid on food donated is zero if it is given to certain bodies. In Italy, only certain types of foodstuffs are subject to zero VAT. In the Netherlands and Finland, donors can themselves determine when a foodstuff is no longer saleable and therefore subject to zero VAT. In Romania, the relevant clarifying documents were still being drafted at the time of the audit visit.
Missed opportunities for facilitating donation due to a lack of legal provision
Common fisheries policy74
According to the Commission, during the negotiations of the CFP reform, the opportunity to include donation in the reformed CFP was debated with the legislator and eventually rejected. Therefore, there is still no mechanism to encourage the donation of withdrawn fish nor is there a mechanism to encourage donation of fish that cannot be marketed (e.g. undersized).
Common agricultural policy75
As explained in paragraph 35, for many years the EU had considerable stockpiles of butter, skimmed milk powder, cereals, etc. A dedicated programme (Food Distribution programme for the Most Deprived Persons of the Community — MDP) existed within the CAP for donating some of these intervention stocks to needy people through charities.76
From the 1990s onwards, the use of the public intervention mechanism steadily declined and so did the stocks. As of 2014, the MDP has been replaced by another programme, outside the CAP, called the FEAD. Although both the applicable regulations63 provide for the possibility of using products from the intervention stocks through the FEAD, the necessary Commission implementing acts that establish the relevant procedures are missing.
Opportunities to facilitate donation not sufficiently exploited
Fund for European Aid to the most Deprived77
The FEAD has existed since 2014. Unlike the MDP, the main focus of the FEAD64 is not to make products from intervention stocks available to the most deprived, but to provide material and non-material assistance to the most deprived.78
The FEAD regulation65 provides for ways of facilitating food donation, but the Commission has not actively promoted this aspect of the FEAD to the Member States and only a few Member States have actually used it:
- Article 23(4) provides for the possibility of freely distributing food from intervention stocks to the most deprived people under the FEAD. In practice, only one Member State out of 28 (Finland) has included this in its FEAD operational programme (OP).
- Article 26(2)(d) provides for the possibility of financing the cost of collection, transport, storage and distribution of food donations. According to the Commission, only four Member States have included this in their OPs (Estonia, Italy, Luxembourg and Slovakia) as an action in the programme, but without a specific budget attached.
Common agricultural policy79
When producers withdraw fruit and vegetables from the market, they can receive EU funding for disposing of it (see paragraph 44). When they donate the products to certain bodies, they receive a higher compensation than when they destroy them. Despite this higher compensation, the data received during the audit show that less than 40 % of the fruit and vegetables withdrawn from the market was actually donated in the period 2007-2015. Figures vary widely between Member States, and from year to year. The audit showed that, in one Member State visited during the audit, there are serious problems with the reliability of the data (see Box 12).
Data inconsistencies regarding withdrawals, green harvesting and non-harvesting (Italy)
Member States are required to report to the European Commission yearly on the quantities, values and destinations of the fruit and vegetables that were withdrawn from the market. According to the data received from the Italian authorities of Regione Lazio for the year 2011, the total quantity of products given for free distribution amounted to 139 ktonnes, which is almost triple the total quantity of products withdrawn (50 ktonnes). This figure cannot simply be a one-off error, since there were nine different product categories where the quantity of products freely distributed exceeded the total quantity of products withdrawn.
Furthermore, the auditors requested three examples of cases where a producer organisation had donated withdrawn products for free distribution. The documentation received showed that a certain producer organisation had donated 24 tonnes of water melons to a charity in 2014. The supporting documentation also indicates that it was the seventh time in 2014 that the producer organisation had given withdrawn products for free distribution. However, according to the 2014 annual report sent to the Commission, that particular producer organisation had not withdrawn any quantities of products during that year.
The authorities acknowledged that there were errors in the data and were not able to provide an explanation.
One of the difficulties reported by Member State authorities with regard to the free distribution of withdrawn fruit and vegetables to certain public establishments66 is the fact that, according to EU law, free distribution is not permitted to replace quantities normally bought in by such establishments. Whilst this provision is in place to avoid interference in the market, in practice, due to the difficulty of checking whether this provision is being complied with, some authorities are discouraged from donating products to these types of establishment at all.
Conclusions and recommendations81
Food waste is a global problem that has moved up the public and political agenda in recent years, it is likely to continue to grow in importance, especially given the need to feed the rising global population. Food is a precious commodity and its production can be very resource intensive. Current estimates indicate that, globally, around one third of the food produced for human consumption is wasted or lost, with a consequent economic and environmental cost.82
Against this backdrop we examined the role the EU can play in combating food waste. While acknowledging the importance of the market forces when combating food waste, the audit examined the actions taken thus far and the way in which the various EU policy instruments work to reduce food waste. It focused on the actions of prevention and donation which are those most preferred in the fight against food waste.83
The audit examined the question ‘Does the EU contribute to a resource-efficient food supply chain by combating food waste effectively?’ It found that currently it does not, and the report highlights the ways in which the current initiatives and policies could be used more effectively to address the problem of food waste. Many of the potential improvements do not require new initiatives or more public funding but rather involve the better alignment of existing policies, improved coordination within the Commission and between the Commission and Member States, and clearly identifying the reduction of food waste as one of the objectives of the existing policies.84
The European Parliament, Council and Commission along with the Member States have all expressed their desire to combat the problem of food waste. The action taken to date to fulfil that desire has been fragmented and intermittent, there is not an agreed EU-wide strategy and the coordination at Commission level is lacking. Despite the increasing importance of food waste on the political agenda the Commission’s ambition has decreased over time (paragraphs 26 to 32). This even though the fight against food waste is an area where there appears to be agreement that the Commission can play a leading role. The absence of a common definition for food waste and an agreed baseline from which to target reductions in waste has hampered further progress in this area. Therefore we recommend:
The EU efforts to combat food waste should be strengthened and better coordinated; in doing this the EU could take a greater role in the appropriate forums at a global level. This implies concerted action by the EU bodies and Member States to agree a common strategy as soon as possible.
At the technical level the Commission should now develop an action plan for the years ahead covering various policy areas. This should include agreed descriptions of what constitutes food waste at all stages of the food chain and a methodology for measuring the impacts of its strategy.85
We looked at a number of EU policy areas that are likely to influence the behaviour of the different actors in the food supply chain with respect to food waste (agriculture, fisheries, food safety, environment, social affairs and taxation). Action should be targeted all along the food supply chain with potential benefits for all those involved. That said, emphasis should be put on prevention, as the benefits of avoiding waste largely outweigh those of dealing with it later.86
Whilst there are a number of EU policies that have the potential to combat food waste this potential has not been fully exploited and the opportunities offered have yet to be taken. There has been a notable lack of assessment of the impact of the various EU policies on the fight against food waste. Major policy areas such as the common agricultural policy, including rural development, the common fisheries policy and the food safety policy all have a role to play and could be used to better combat food waste (paragraphs 34 to 69). However, over time, policy changes, including CAP reform and changes to the fisheries policy have had a positive impact, for example the move away from intervention-based agriculture policy which created overproduction. The report highlights a number of good practices but their positive impact on food waste was coincidental rather than as a result of targeted policy action. Therefore we recommend:
In order to coordinate the various policies with the potential to combat food waste the Commission should consider food waste in future impact assessments. The Commission should better align the different policies and consider ways in which they could be developed to target the problem. In particular:
- As regards the CAP the topic of food waste should be included in the forthcoming review of the policy. The Commission should also encourage Member States to prioritise the objective of combating food waste when programming future expenditures by, for example, making it one of the objectives for the next rural development programming period.
- As regards the common fisheries policy, closer monitoring of the landing obligation for fish is needed and the Commission should from now on facilitate the use of available EU funds for investments that combat food waste.
- When developing its food safety policy the Commission should further facilitate the exchange of good practices on hygiene and traceability. As regards food labelling it should assess the need to intervene in order to prevent labelling practices that generate food waste.
Donation of food that would otherwise be wasted already occurs in the EU through, for example, food banks. Nevertheless, a number of barriers still exist to donation, and a lack of clarity and consistency in certain legal provisions relating to donation. A number of opportunities to facilitate the donation of food that otherwise would be wasted have not been taken (paragraphs 70 to 80). Therefore, while stressing that efforts should be primarily directed towards food waste prevention, we recommend:
The Commission should promote the option of donating food that is safe for consumption and that would otherwise be wasted. In particular, and as soon as is practicable, by:
- clarifying the interpretation of legal provisions that discourage the donation of food, in particular with reference to the waste framework directive and the General Food Law;
- carrying out an assessment of the impact of extending donation to those policy areas where it is not taking place, particularly in relation to the common fisheries policy;
- completing the legislative requirement to allow the use of food from agricultural stocks from public intervention; and
- promoting among Member States the use of existing provisions for donation, with particular reference to fruit and vegetables withdrawn from the market and to the FEAD.
This report was adopted by Chamber I, headed by Mr Phil WYNN OWEN, Member of the Court of Auditors, in Luxembourg at its meeting of 10 November 2016.
For the Court of Auditors
The role of market forces in generating food waste
Market economies aim to bring prosperity to society as a whole and to stimulate competition as an incentive for innovation. However, negative externalities1 may occur all along the food chain, generating food waste and costs to specific actors and to society as a whole. Therefore, the generation of food waste can to some extent be considered the result of a market failure. In addition, consumers are not fully informed about the food waste associated with each of the products they consume. Unless proper action is taken to reverse these negative externalities, there will be insufficient incentive for the actors along the food chain to reduce food waste and society will keep paying for the associated costs. Two concrete examples of the influence of market forces on the generation of food waste are developed below.
First example: marketing standards for fruit and vegetables
Marketing standards are quality and aesthetic standards for classifying agricultural products. The EU applies a system of marketing standards for fruit and vegetables. In addition to public standards, firms can establish their own private marketing standards which may also include aesthetic components.
Marketing standards are useful because they establish a common language and therefore facilitate trade. They can encourage high quality production, improve profitability and protect consumer interests. Public marketing standards may also avoid the proliferation of numerous private standards.
However, due to such standards, perfectly edible products can be taken out of the food supply chain for aesthetic reasons (such as size and shape requirements)2. Very few studies exist showing that products that are not sold as the two highest quality categories (‘category I’ or ‘extra’), can actually be sold to the processing industry. Moreover, the processing industry, for technical reasons, may require even stricter size and shape requirements3 4.
There is therefore a need for further research as regards the relation between marketing standards and food waste5. Food waste related to the use of the standards was recently discussed in the UNECE6 Working Party on Agricultural Quality Standards. The Commission and the EU Member States can influence the UNECE public standards, which are endorsed, and subsequently implemented, by the EU. In such discussions, consideration could be given to public interest issues such as avoiding waste of resources by preventing the generation of food waste, both for economic and environmental reasons.
Second example: unfair trading practices (UTPs) and significant differences in bargaining power
Unfair trading practices are practices that grossly deviate from good commercial conduct and are contrary to good faith and fair dealing. They are typically imposed in a situation of imbalance by a stronger party on a weaker one, and can exist from any side of the business-to-business relationship7. UTPs and situations of imbalanced bargaining power between business operators are thus two different concepts that can occur at the same time.
Both types of situation may cause food waste (see Box). In both cases, if food waste occurs, the stronger, dom-inant operator succeeds in pushing back part of the cost of food waste onto the weaker, dominated operator in the business relationship.
Business relationships with effect on food waste
Examples of unfair trading practices that may have an effect on food waste:
- absence of written contracts;
- unilateral modification of the agreed terms and conditions after conclusion of the contract.
Food waste may occur in the case of last-minute cancellations or changes to the volumes previously ordered when the supplier is unable to find another buyer for its produce.
Examples of ‘fair’ trading practices taking place in situations of imbalanced bargaining power that may have an effect on food waste:
- contractual clauses fixing a high level of product availability, without guaranteed purchase;
- suppliers aiming for a very high product availability in order not to run the risk of discontinued business relationships with their client.
Such situations may result in food waste, if the buyer needs fewer products than made available by the supplier.
The relation between bargaining power imbalances, unfair trading practices and food waste has been repeatedly highlighted by the European Parliament and it is recognised that ‘fair trading should in turn help to prevent overproduction and food waste8’. The Commission and the Member State authorities acknowledge that unfair business-to-business practices exist and that action needs to be taken against them. A recent Commission report9 states that ‘the Commission does not see the added value of a specific harmonised regulatory approach at EU level at this stage’.
However, despite (i) efforts to strengthen the primary sector by supporting the establishment and expansion of producer organisations10, (ii) the existence of the so-called the Supply Chain Initiative (SCI)11 since 2011 in the context of the High Level Forum for a Better Functioning Food Supply Chain12 and (iii) the existence of specific legislation for combating UTPs in a majority of Member States, these complex issues remain, at least to a certain extent, unresolved and considering the impact of UTPs on the generation of food waste remains an issue.
Overview of EU instruments which can impact the fight against food waste
At the level of the European Commission, DG Health and Food Safety is in charge of the food waste file. In that context it takes a number of actions (such as establishing working and expert groups) and communication initiatives. Several other Commission DGs also have a role to play in food waste prevention since several of the EU policies and provisions can have an influence on the generation of food waste (such as the agricultural policy, the fisheries policy, the food safety policy, the waste policy).
We have analysed, for the audit, the EU policies and EU legal provisions and have identified those instruments (both EU funds as well as legal provisions that are not linked to any funds) that can have an influence on the behaviour of the different players1 of the food supply chain in terms of preventing food waste or donating food that otherwise would be wasted. The result is shown in the table below: it gives an overview of those EU instruments which impact on the fight against food waste, indicating in which part of the food supply chain the behaviour of the different players might be influenced.
|EU instruments which have an effect on the fight against food waste||Food waste prevention||Donation|
|Legal provisions not linked to funds||Waste directive1||x||x||x||x|
|Food safety rules2||x||x||x||x|
|(Un)fair trading practices||x||x||x|
|VAT5 and financial stimuli||x||x||x||x|
1 Directive 2008/98/EC.
2 General Food Law (Regulation (EC) No 178/2002) and Food and Hygiene Package (Regulation (EC) No 852/2004, Regulation (EC) No 853/2004, Regulation (EC) No 854/2004 and Directive 2004/41/EC).
3 Food durability and date marking (Regulation (EC) No 1169/2011).
4 EC Regulation 1580/2007 (as amended, in particular by EC Regulation 1221/2008).
5 Council Directive 2006/112/EC.
The above table lists EU instruments that are laid down in either regulations of the European Parliament and of the Council, Commission regulations or directives of the European Parliament and of the Council. Depending on the type of text, the influence on the implementation of the provisions can be either direct (in the case of regulations) or indirect (in the case of directives), leaving some room for interpretation for the Member States in the way they enact the EU provisions.
The Member States’ responsibility, with regard to the above EU instruments, as regards food waste, is therefore to use the funds and to enact the EU provisions in such a way as to favour food waste prevention and donation.
Main political statements regarding food waste since 2009
Former Danish Commissioner Madame Fischer Boel1
‘It makes no sense to throw perfectly good products away, just because they are the ‘wrong’ size and shape.’
Joint declaration against food waste2
‘In adopting this declaration we intend to make explicit our commitment at national, regional and global levels to reduce by 50 % the amount of food waste throughout the food chain. (…) Steps should urgently be taken to identify what actions should be embraced to make such an objective a realistic goal to be achieved by 2025.’
European Parliament: Report on how to avoid food wastage: strategies for a more efficient food chain in the EU3
‘asks the Commission, furthermore, to take practical measures towards halving food waste by 2025 and at the same time preventing the generation of bio-waste’
European Parliament resolution of 19 January 2012 on how to avoid food wastage: strategies for a more efficient food chain in the EU4
‘Asks the Commission, furthermore, to take practical measures towards halving food waste by 2025 and at the same time preventing the generation of bio-waste’
‘Urges the Council and the Commission to designate 2014 the European Year against Food Waste’
European Parliament and Council: Decision No 1386/2013/EU on a General Union Environment Action Programme to 2020 ‘Living well, within the limits of our planet’5
‘The Rio + 20 outcome recognised the need to significantly reduce post-harvest and other food losses and waste throughout the food supply chain. The Commission should present a comprehensive strategy to combat unnecessary food waste and work with Member States in the fight against excessive food waste generation.’
13 Members of the European Parliament: Written declaration on food wastage6
The Commission is also called upon to designate 2016 as the European Year against food wastage.
European Parliament resolution of 30 April 2015 on Milano Expo 2015: Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life7
‘Calls on the Commission to fight against food waste with ambitious, clearly defined, binding targets to encourage the Member States to take action against food waste at every level of the food supply chain, from field to fork’
‘Encourages the Member States to educate citizens, promote and disseminate best practices, conduct analyses and initiate social and educational campaigns in schools on food waste and on the importance of a healthy, balanced diet, giving priority to local farm produce, designating 2016 as the European Year against Food Waste’.
G20 Agriculture Ministers Meeting — Istanbul, 7-8 May 2015, Final Communiqué8
‘We note with great concern the significant extent of food loss and waste throughout food value chains and their negative consequences for food security, nutrition, use of natural resources and the environment. We highlight this as a global problem of enormous economic, environmental and societal significance and encourage all G20 members to strengthen their efforts to address it. We believe the reduction of food loss and waste is a good objective for G20 collective action and that the G20 can provide global leadership in this regard. We recall the CFS’s Policy Recommendations on Food Loss and Waste. In the context of policy coherence, we encourage the DWG to continue its efforts to develop actions to reduce food loss and waste as part of its Implementation Plan for the G20 FSN Framework.’
European Parliament resolution of 9 July 2015 on resource efficiency: moving towards a circular economy9
‘Calls on the Commission to propose, by the end of 2015, targets, measures and instruments to efficiently tackle food waste, including setting a binding food waste reduction target of at least 30 % by 2025 in the manufacturing, retail/distribution, food service/hospitability sectors and the household sector’
‘calls on the Commission, when conducting an impact assessment on new relevant legislative proposals, to evaluate their potential impact on food waste’
European Committee of the regions: Resolution on Sustainable Food10
‘reiterates its request to the European Commission to promote reduction of food waste and to re-table a proposal for a food waste reduction objective of at least 30 % by 2025, based on its withdrawn proposal from 2014 amending the waste framework directive to promote a circular economy (…); in this context, supports the European Parliament's call for 2016 to be dedicated to the European Year against Food Waste’
United Nations: Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 25 September 2015 70/1. Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development11
‘12.3 By 2030, halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses’
European Parliament Draft Report on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 2008/98/EC on waste. Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, 24 May 201612
‘Definitions of (…), food waste and decontamination need to be included in Directive 2008/98/EC so that the scope of these concepts is clarified. (…)
The Commission should present guidelines for food for donation including on fiscal and technical aspects. (…)
Member States shall monitor and assess the implementation of their food waste prevention measures by measuring the levels of food waste on the basis of a common methodology. By 31 December 2017, the Commission shall adopt a delegated act in accordance with Article 38a to establish the methodology, including minimum quality requirements, for the uniform measurement of the levels of food waste. (…)
’Member States shall establish, in accordance with Articles 1 and 4, waste prevention programmes aimed to achieve, at least, the following objectives:
(…) a 50 % reduction of food waste generation by 2030;’
Council of the European Union. Food losses and food waste — Council conclusions (28 June 2016)
These Council conclusions develop in more detail the Council conclusions on the EU action plan for the circular economy (20 June 2016)
2 Joint declaration against food waste: signed by academics and researchers from universities in different countries around the world, Members of the EP, politicians and representatives of international organisations and civil society, http://www.lastminutemarket.it/media_news/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/JOINT-DECLARATION-FINAL-english.pdf
3 European Parliament: Report on how to avoid food wastage: strategies for a more efficient food chain in the EU (2011/2175(INI)), http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+REPORT+A7-2011-0430+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN
4 European Parliament resolution of 19 January 2012 on how to avoid food wastage: strategies for a more efficient food chain in the EU (2011/2175(INI)) (2013/C 227 E/05), http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+TA+P7-TA-2012-0014+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN
5 European Parliament and Council: Decision No 1386/2013/EU on a General Union Environment Action Programme to 2020 ‘Living well, within the limits of our planet’.
6 13 Members of the European Parliament: Written declaration on food wastage, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+WDECL+P8-DCL-2015-0001+0+DOC+WORD+V0//EN
7 European Parliament resolution of 30 April 2015 on Milano Expo 2015: Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life (2015/2574(RSP)), http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+TA+P8-TA-2015-0184+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN
8 G20 Agriculture Ministers Meeting — Istanbul, 7-8 May 2015, Final Communiqué.
9 European Parliament resolution of 9 July 2015 on resource efficiency: moving towards a circular economy (2014/2208(INI)), http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+TA+P8-TA-2015-0266+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN
10 European Committee of the regions: Resolution on Sustainable Food.
11 United Nations: Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 25 September 2015 70/1. Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/70/1&Lang=E
12 Draft Report on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 2008/98/EC on waste (COM(2015) 0595 – C8-0382/2015 – 2015/0275(COD)). Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. 2015/0275(COD).
Terms and abbreviations
CAP: Common agricultural policy
CFP: Common fisheries policy
CMO: Common Market Organisation
COPA Cogeca: COPA — Committee of Professional Agricultural Organisations (the European representative organisation of farmers), Cogeca — General Confederation of Agricultural Cooperatives
DAS: European Court of Auditors annual statements of assurance
DG: European Commission’s departments and services known as directorates-general (DGs)
DG AGRI: European Commission’s Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development
DG CNECT: European Commission’s Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology
DG EMPL: European Commission’s Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion
DG ENER: European Commission’s Directorate-General for Energy
DG ENTR: European Commission’s Directorate-General for Enterprise and Industry. New name: Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (GROW).
DG ENV: European Commission’s Directorate-General for the Environment
DG GROW: European Commission’s Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs)
DG MARE: European Commission’s Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries
DG MARKT: Directorate-General for the Internal Market and Services. New name: Directorate-General for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union (FISMA).
DG RTD: European Commission’s Directorate-General for Research and Innovation
DG SANCO: European Commission’s Directorate-General for Health and Consumers. New name: Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety (SANTE).
DG SANTE: European Commission’s Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety
DG TAXUD: European Commission’s Directorate-General for the Taxation and Customs Union
EAFRD: European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development
EAGF: European Agricultural Guarantee Fund
EFF: European Fisheries Fund
EIP: European Innovation Partnership
EMFF: European Maritime and Fisheries Fund
Eurostat: The statistical office of the European Union
Export refunds: Export refunds may be paid by the EU to trading companies that sell certain agricultural goods in third countries. The refund normally covers the difference between the internal EU price and the world market price.
FAO: Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations
Faostat: Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, Statistics Division
FEAD: Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived
G20: (or Group of Twenty) is an international forum for the governments and central bank governors from 20 major economies.
GMS: General marketing standard
Green harvesting: Totally harvesting non-marketable (but not damaged) products on a given cultivated area, before the normal harvest.
Market withdrawal: Withdrawing products from the market (not putting them up for sale).
MDP: Food Distribution programme for the Most Deprived Persons
Non-harvesting: Not taking any commercial production from the cultivated area during the normal production cycle. Does not include destruction of products due to climatic event or disease.
Private storage aid: Aid for putting products into storage. This helps to stabilise the market for a product if there’s a surplus and prices become weak.
Public intervention: When market prices for certain agricultural products fall below a predetermined level, the European Commission can decide to stabilise the market by purchasing surplus supplies, which may then be stored in the Member States until the market price increases.
Rural development: The EU’s rural development policy complements the system of direct payments and market measures and it works to improve certain aspects of the economic, environmental and social situation of the EU’s rural areas.
UNECE: United Nations Economic Commission for Europe
VAT: Value added tax
VCS: Voluntary coupled support
WRAP: (Waste & Resources Action Programme) Charity and company in the UK which works with governments, businesses and communities to deliver practical solutions to improve resource efficiency and to accelerate the move to a sustainable, resource-efficient economy.
1 As measured by weight. FAO, 2011. Global food losses and food waste — extent, causes and prevention. Rome: UN FAO.
2 Food loss is defined as ‘the decrease in quantity or quality of food’. Food waste is part of food loss and refers to discarding or alternative (non-food) use of food that is safe and nutritious for human consumption along the entire food supply chain, from primary production to end household consumer level (http://www.fao.org/platform-food-loss-waste/food-waste/definition/en/).
3 Food waste is any food, and inedible parts of food, removed from the food supply chain to be recovered or disposed (including composed, crops ploughed in/not harvested, anaerobic digestion, bio-energy production, co-generation, incineration, disposal to sewer, landfill or discarded to sea) (http://www.eu-fusions.org/index.php/about-food-waste/280-food-waste-definition).
5 Including the FAO, UNEP, the World Business Council on Sustainable Development (WBCSD), the Consumer Goods Forum, EU project Fusions, and Waste and Resources Action Programme as core partners (http://flwprotocol.org/).
6 Article 4 of Directive 2008/98/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 November 2008 on waste and repealing certain Directives (OJ L 312, 22.11.2008, p. 3).
7 (a) Prevention; (b) Preparing for reuse; (c) Recycling; (d) Other recovery, e.g. energy recovery; and (e) Disposal.
8 Figure based on 2012 data (http://ec.europa.eu/food/safety/food_waste/index_en.htm). The reference for the figure of 88 million tonnes of food waste quoted by the Commission corresponds to the latest estimates of food waste generated in the EU-28 published by FP7 project Fusions (Estimates of European food waste levels, Fusions, 2016 http://www.eu-fusions.org/phocadownload/Publications/Estimates%20of%20European%20food%20waste%20levels.pdf). This figure is not broken down on what is produced in the EU and what is imported.
9 European Commission, Directorate-General for Environment, ‘Preparatory study on food waste across EU 27’, 2010.
10 Franke, U., Einarson, E., Andrésen, N., Svanes, E., Hartikainen, H. and Mogensen, L., Kartläggning av matsvinnet i primärproduktionen, Nordic Council, Copenhagen, 2013. (www.norden.org/sv/publikationer/publikationer/2013-581); Hanssen, O. J., Ekegren P., Gram-Hanssen, I., et al., Food Redistribution in the Nordic Region, the Nordic Council of Ministers, Copenhagen, 2014. (http://norden.diva-portal.org/smash/record.jsf?pid=diva2%3A784307&dswid=9068); House of Lords Report ‘Counting the Cost of Food Waste: EU Food Waste Prevention’, European Union Committee, 10th Report of Session 2013-14, p. 12.
11 FAO, ‘Food wastage Foodprint. Impacts on natural resources’, FAO Rome, 2013 (http://www.fao.org/nr/sustainability/food-loss-%c2%adand-waste/en/).
12 EP briefing internal market and consumer protection. Unfair Trading Practices in the Business-to-Business Food Supply Chain
13 Member States’ own initiatives are not included within the scope of the current audit. Only examples of specific practices are included for illustrative purposes.
14 EU understood as the EU institutions (charged with designing the different policies and establishing the different legal provisions) together with the Member States (charged with implementing those policies and provisions).
15 The report includes, however, relevant political statements concerning food waste up to 1 July 2016.
16 Council conclusions on the EU action plan for the circular economy of 20 June 2016 (10444/16 — outcome of the 3476th Council meeting). These conclusions were developed in more detail by the Council conclusions on food losses and food waste of 28 June 2016 (10730/16 outcome of the 3479th Council meeting).
18 COM(2014) 397 final of 2 July 2014 ‘Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directives 2008/98/EC on waste, 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste, 1999/31/EC on the landfill of waste, 2000/53/EC on end-of-life vehicles, 2006/66/EC on batteries and accumulators and waste batteries and accumulators, and 2012/19/EU on waste electrical and electronic equipment’.
20 The Green Card is a new initiative, in compliance with Article 9 of Protocol 1 of the Lisbon Treaty, which enables the parliaments of EU Member States to join forces to make proposals to the Commission, and thereby influence the development of EU policy.
21 Mainly European umbrella organisations representing producers, processors, caterers, retailers, packaging industries and research bodies.
22 DG SANCO, DG ENV, DG AGRI for all meetings and DG RTD, DG TAXUD, DG ENER, DG ENTR, DG MARKT for some of the other meetings.
23 DG SANCO/SANTE, DG AGRI and depending on the meeting: DG CNECT, DG ENTR, DG TAXUD, DG GROW, DG RTD, EUROSTAT.
24 Although food waste has been coordinated by DG SANTE since 2012, the file was moved from DG ENV to DG SANTE (unit A6) on 1.1.2015. The file was moved again within DG SANTE to unit E1 on 1.2.2016.
25 Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2011 on the provision of food information to consumers, amending Regulations (EC) No 1924/2006 and (EC) No 1925/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council, and repealing Commission Directive 87/250/EEC, Council Directive 90/496/EEC, Commission Directive 1999/10/EC, Directive 2000/13/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, Commission Directives 2002/67/EC and 2008/5/EC and Commission Regulation (EC) No 608/2004 (OJ L 304, 22.11.2011, p. 18).
26 According to Article 39(1)(a) and (c) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), the CAP aims primarily at supporting the economic viability of the farm sector and the stability of the markets for agricultural products. However, Article 39(1) (a) also requires an ‘optimum utilisation of the factors of production’, i.e. it requires the sustainable and efficient use of natural resources. In this context, Article 11 is also relevant: ‘Environmental protection requirements must be integrated into the definition and implementation of the Union’s policies and activities, in particular with a view to promoting sustainable development’.
27 Compensatory payments to farmers that are linked either to fixed areas (or fixed yields), or to a fixed number of animals.
28 Article 52(3) of Regulation (EU) No 1307/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 establishing rules for direct payments to farmers under support schemes within the framework of the common agricultural policy and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No 637/2008 and Council Regulation (EC) No 73/2009 (OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 608).
29 Article 52(5) of Regulation (EU) No 1307/2013.
30 SEC(2011) 1153 final/2 of 20.10.2011 ‘Impact Assessment Common Agricultural Policy towards 2020’, Annex 5 Market Measures, p. 12.
31 Mattson, K., ‘Why do we throw away edible fruit and vegetables?’, Rapport 2014:5 EN, Division for Trade and Markets, Financed by the Swedish National Food Agency (p. 22).
32 The figures published in August 2016 by the Commission’s milk market observatory show that stocks have recently increased. http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/market-observatory/milk/pdf/eu-stocks-butter-smp_en.pdf
33 As of 1 August 2017, the School Milk and School Fruits schemes will be merged.
34 Articles 23(2) and 26(2) of Regulation (EU) No 1308/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 establishing a common organisation of the markets in agricultural products and repealing Council Regulations (EEC) No 922/72, (EEC) No 234/79, (EC) No 1037/2001 and (EC) No 1234/2007 (OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 671).
35 Only Belgium, Croatia, Italy, the Netherlands, and Slovakia have included food waste- related educational messages in the accompanying measures of the school fruit scheme.
36 Articles 14, 15, 17, 33 and 35 of Regulation (EU) No 1305/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 on support for rural development by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No 1698/2005 (OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 487).
37 European Fisheries Fund (EFF) for the period 2007-2013 and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) for the period 2014-2020.
38 Regulation (EU) No 1380/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2013 on the Common Fisheries Policy, amending Council Regulations (EC) No 1954/2003 and (EC) No 1224/2009 and repealing Council Regulations (EC) No 2371/2002 and (EC) No 639/2004 and Council Decision 2004/585/EC (OJ L 354, 28.12.2013, p. 22).
39 Referred to in Article 15(5) of Regulation (EU) No 1380/2013 as ‘de minimis exemptions of up to 5 % of total annual catches of all species’.
40 Discard Atlas of North Sea Fisheries, IMARES Wageningen UR, Wageningen, August 2014.
41 The obligation to land all catches — consequences for the Mediterranean. In-depth analysis. European Parliament, 2014.
42 Required by Article 15 of Council Regulation (EC) No 1224/2009 of 20 November 2009 establishing a Community control system for ensuring compliance with the rules of the common fisheries policy, amending Regulations (EC) No 847/96, (EC) No 2371/2002, (EC) No 811/2004, (EC) No 768/2005, (EC) No 2115/2005, (EC) No 2166/2005, (EC) No 388/2006, (EC) No 509/2007, (EC) No 676/2007, (EC) No 1098/2007, (EC) No 1300/2008, (EC) No 1342/2008 and repealing Regulations (EEC) No 2847/93, (EC) No 1627/94 and (EC) No 1966/2006 (OJ L 343, 22.12.2009, p. 1).
43 Between January 2007 and November 2015, the Finnish authorities approved 14 projects to combat fish diseases (3 research and 11 pilot projects).
44 COM(2011) 417 final, SEC(2011) 884 final and SEC(2010) 428 final.
45 Regulation (EU) No 1379/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2013 on the common organisation of the markets in fishery and aquaculture products, amending Council Regulations (EC) No 1184/2006 and (EC) No 1224/2009 and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No 104/2000 (OJ L 354, 28.12.2013, p. 1).
46 For example, in 2014, the Dutch producer organisations withdrew 875 tonnes of plaice from the market at their own expense (around 2 % of the landings auctioned), due to the fact that the threshold price was not met. In 2015, that quantity was only 5 tonnes, thanks to a better price.
47 Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 January 2002 laying down the general principles and requirements of food law, establishing the European Food Safety Authority and laying down procedures in matters of food safety (OJ L 31, 1.2.2002, p. 1).
48 This means that they must be able to identify the businesses to which their products have been supplied and to trace food chain inputs back to the immediate supplier.
49 Directive 2011/91/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 December 2011 on indications or marks identifying the lot to which a foodstuff belongs Text with EEA relevance (OJ L 334, 16.12.2011, p. 1).
50 Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Romania.
51 Portugal and Finland.
52 Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011.
53 Flash Eurobarometer 425, Food waste and date marking. September 2015.
54 Møller, H., Lødrup, N., et al., ‘Date labelling in the Nordic countries: Practice of legislation’, Nordic Council of Ministers, 2014.
56 Directive 2008/98/EC.
57 In the same way, in the absence of a clear definition, some Member States may consider food for feeding animals as constituting food waste and other may consider the opposite.
58 According to the definition of food waste considered for this report it is clear that we consider food donated as a way to prevent food waste.
59 Regulation (EC) No 178/2002.
60 Article 3 of Regulation (EC) No 178/2002: ‘food business operator’ means the natural or legal persons responsible for ensuring that the requirements of food law are met within the food business under their control.
61 Also the European Parliament has asked the Commission to present guidelines on food for donation (EP Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, Draft Report on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 2008/98/EC on waste (COM(2015)0595 – C8-0382/2015 – 2015/0275(COD)).
62 The EU’s value added tax system is described in Council Directive 2006/112/EC, with Article 16 of the directive referring to the donation of goods. According to EU fiscal rules, VAT on donated foodstuffs is due in a number of situations, to be determined by Member States. The value on which the VAT is based can be fairly low or even close to zero.
63 Regulation (EU) No 1308/2013 and Regulation (EU) No 223/2014 respectively.
64 The objectives of the FEAD, as presented in Article 3, are to promote social cohesion, enhance social inclusion and ultimately contribute to achieving the poverty reduction target of the Europe 2020 strategy. The FEAD contributes to the specific objective of alleviating the worst forms of poverty through the provision of non-financial assistance to the most deprived persons.
65 Regulation (EU) No 223/2014 of the European Parliament and the Council of 11 March 2014 on the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (OJ L 72, 12.3.2014, p. 1).
66 Penal institutions, schools, establishments referred to in Article 22, children’s holiday camps, hospitals and old people’s homes designated by the Member States.
1 A negative externality occurs when an individual or firm making a decision does not have to pay the full cost of the decision (http://economics.fundamentalfinance.com/negative-externality.php).
2 FAO, ‘Global food losses and food waste — extent, causes and prevention’, Rome: UN FAO, 2011.
4 Maintaining the post-harvest quality of fruits and vegetables; J. Aked, Cranfield University.
6 ECE/TRADE/C/WP.7/GE.1/2015/10, ECE/CTCS/WP.7/GE.1/2016/2, ECE/CTCS/WP.7/GE.1/2016/10. A discussion paper prepared by several delegations proposed a possible revision of the standard layout and the standards regarding apples, tomatoes and leeks. When the paper was discussed in April 2015 it was decided to look at revising the standards for leeks and tomatoes. Representatives of the World Apple and Pear Association (WAPA) also attended that meeting.
7 EP briefing internal market and consumer protection. Unfair trading Practices in the Business-to Business Food Supply Chain (http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/BRIE/2015/563430/IPOL_BRI(2015)563430_EN.pdf).
8 Press release — Agriculture/Industry — 7.6.2016 at 13:14.
9 COM(2016) 32 final ‘Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on unfair business-to-business trading practices in the food supply chain’.
10 Support to the establishment and expansion of producer organisations is available under the second pillar of the CAP and under the CFP. Elements of the first pillar of the CAP also aim to reduce the bargaining power gap between farmers and other parties in the food supply chain.
12 The Initiative’s aim was to increase fairness in vertical trade relationships with the voluntary participation of actors in the food supply chain.
1 For the purpose of this report, and while accepting that this is a simplification of the many different levels that exist, we have classified the sectors of the food supply chain into four groups (producers, processors, retailers and consumers).
1 COM (2015) 614 final
2 Estimates of European food waste levels, Fusions, March 2016 (http://www.eu-fusions.org/phocadownload/Publications/Estimates%20of%20European%20food%20waste%20levels.pdf).
3 The Commission’s planned approach to elaborating a methodology to measure food waste at each stage of the food supply chain was discussed at a meeting with Member State experts on 22 June 2016 (http://ec.europa.eu/food/safety/docs/fw_eu-actions_ms_20160622_p06.pdf).
4 In EU law, food is defined in Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 January 2002 laying down the general principles and requirements of food law, establishing the European Food Safety Authority and laying down procedures in matters of food safety. Waste is defined under Directive 2008/98/EC.
5 COM(2015)595 final: Commission’s proposal to amend Directive 2008/98/EC on waste.
6 Committee on World Food Security (2014), Policy recommendations. Food Losses and Waste in the Context of Sustainable Food Systems (http://www.fao.org/3/a-av037e.pdf)
9 In 2010-2014, the High Level Forum for a Better Functioning Food Supply Chain discussed ways to improve the sustainability of the food system including food waste prevention (https://ec.europa.eu/growth/sectors/food/competitiveness/supply-chain-forum_en). The European Food Sustainable Consumption and Production Round Table, an initiative co-chaired by the Commission and food supply chain partners also considers food waste in its work to assess the environmental footprint of the European food supply chain (http://www.food-scp.eu/). The Retail Forum was set up by the Commission in 2009 together with representatives of EuroCommerce and the European Retail Round Table, in order to exchange best practices and take action to strengthen sustainability in the European Retail sector including food waste prevention (http://ec.europa.eu/environment/industry/retail/index_en.htm). The European Environment Agency and the Commission have organised workshops with Member States to exchange experiences and disseminate best practices on waste prevention including food waste. The FP7 project Fusions, bringing together 21 project partners from 13 countries, established an inventory of social innovations to prevent food waste and related pilot projects (http://www.eu-fusions.org/index.php/social-innovations) and facilitated multi-stakeholder engagement (government, industry, NGOs at local, regional, national and EU levels) from 2012-2016. The Horizon 2020 project REFRESH (http://eu-refresh.org/about-refresh) will support the EU’s progress towards Sustainable Development Goal food waste reduction target by establishing ‘Frameworks of Action’ on food waste which will be developed and tested, in Germany, Hungary, Spain and the Netherlands together with partners from business, civil society, and governments.
12 Regulation (EC) No 852/2004
14 See at: https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/dyna/hygienelegislation
15 The ‘best before’ date is applicable to eggs marketed as class ‘A/Fresh’ (table eggs) and is laid down in the Regulation (EC) No 589/2005 (Article 2) on the marketing of eggs. A ‘sell by’ date is furthermore established at 21 days in Regulation (EC) No 853/2004 laying down specific hygiene rules for food of animal origin (point 3 of Chapter 1 of Section X, Annex III).
17 COM (2015) 614 final
19 COM (2015) 614 final
|Adoption of the Audit Planning Memorandum/Start of audit||15.7.2015|
|Official sending of draft report to Commission (or other auditee)||16.9.2016|
|Adoption of the final report after the adversarial procedure||10.11.2016|
|Commission’s (or other auditee’s) official replies received in all languages||6.12.2016|
The ECA’s special reports set out the results of its performance and compliance audits of specific budgetary areas or management topics. The ECA selects and designs these audit tasks to be of maximum impact by considering the risks to performance or compliance, the level of income or spending involved, forthcoming developments and political and public interest.
This report was adopted by Audit Chamber I — headed by ECA Member Phil Wynn Owen — which specialises in sustainable use of natural resources. The audit was led by ECA Member Bettina Jakobsen supported by Katja Mattfolk, head of private office; Kim Storup, private office attaché; Michael Bain, principal manager, Maria Eulàlia Reverté i Casas, head of task. The audit team consisted of Els Brems, Klaus Stern, Diana Voinea and Paulo Oliveira.
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Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2017
|ISBN 978-92-872-6416-9||ISSN 1977-5679||doi:10.2865/272895||QJ-AB-16-032-EN-N|
|HTML||ISBN 978-92-872-6871-6||ISSN 1977-5679||doi:10.2865/56299||QJ-AB-16-032-EN-Q|
© European Union, 2017
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