Almost 50% of edible and healthy food gets wasted in EU households and supermarkets each year while 79 million EU citizens live beneath the poverty line and 16 million depend on food aid from charitable institutions. The Agriculture Committee called on Wednesday for urgent measures to halve food waste by 2025 and to improve access to food for needy EU citizens.
Since food is wasted at all stages - by producers, processors, retailers, caterers and consumers, the Agriculture Committee called for EU and national measures to improve the efficiency of the food supply and consumption chains, sector by sector, e.g. by promoting direct relations between producers and consumers and to tackle food wastage as a matter of urgency.
"This issue has been neglected for far too long now and this report sends a strong signal that the EU needs to take action now", said rapporteur Salvatore Caronna (S&D, IT), after the vote.
Better education to avoid excessive waste
To achieve a drastic reduction in food wastage by 2025, new awareness campaigns should be promoted at both EU and national levels to inform the public how to avoid excessive wastage of food, says the resolution. Member States should introduce food education courses in schools and colleges explaining how to store, cook and dispose the food and exchange best practices to this end.
Local authorities and media should also be involved in providing information and support to citizens on preventing and reducing food waste. To popularise the idea using food sustainably, MEPs called for 2013 to be designated as the European year against food waste.
Proper labelling and packaging
To avoid situations in which foods are being offered by retailers too close to their expiry date, thus increasing the potential for wastage, dual-date labelling could be introduced to show until when food may be sold (sell-by date) and until when it may consumed (use-by date), says the resolution, adding that the European Commission and Member States should nonetheless first ensure that customers understand the difference between currently used labels within the EU such as the quality-related "best before" and safety-related "use by" dates.
To prevent unnecessary waste, food packaging should offered in a range of sizes and designed to conserve food better. Out-of-date and damaged food products should be sold at discounted prices, MEPs say.
Public institutions should favour responsible caterers
Rules for public procurement on catering and hospitality should be updated to ensure that where possible, contracts are awarded to catering companies that use local produce and give away or redistribute leftover food to poorer people or food banks free of charge rather than disposing of it.
Leftovers to feed people in need
MEPs also welcomed existing initiatives in some Member States to recover unsold food and offer it to needy citizens and called on retailers to take part in such programmes.
The resolution drafted by Mr. Caronna was approved in committee with 38 votes in favour to one against. The vote in plenary is scheduled for the next Strasbourg session (12 - 15 December 2011).
In the chair: Paolo DE CASTRO (S&D, IT)