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Procedure : 2011/2175(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A7-0430/2011

Texts tabled :

A7-0430/2011

Debates :

PV 19/01/2012 - 5
CRE 19/01/2012 - 5

Votes :

PV 19/01/2012 - 10.13
CRE 19/01/2012 - 10.13
Explanations of votes
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P7_TA(2012)0014

Debates
Thursday, 19 January 2012 - Strasbourg OJ edition

5. Avoiding food wastage (short presentation)
Video of the speeches
PV
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  President. – The next item is the report by Salvatore Caronna, on behalf of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, on how to avoid food wastage: strategies for a more efficient food chain in the EU (2011/2175(INI)) (A7-0430/2011).

I should like to tell you, Mr Caronna, that this morning, the television news, in my country at least, was reporting extensively on the item that we are going to discuss today and I am sure that that was the case in other European countries as well. We are therefore dealing with a subject which has generated interest amongst the public, something that our debates rarely achieve.

 
  
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  Salvatore Caronna , rapporteur.(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, first, I would like to thank the members of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development for their cooperation during the drafting of this report.

This fruitful collaboration meant that we were able, swiftly and almost unanimously, to approve a text on an issue, that of the waste of food, which has, for too long, been underestimated by the institutions and by policy. We can no longer permit ourselves to underestimate it.

All the most authoritative specialist sources now say that one of the main problems in the immediate future will be to tackle the new and extremely high demand for food and that therefore, the issue of food security has become one of the most difficult problems to tackle because, in the future, the demand for food will tend to exceed supply. If this is true, we can no longer allow ourselves to remain passive in the face of food waste. When we talk of food, we are talking of food that is still perfectly edible, and so this issue has become a large-scale problem which is no longer sustainable.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that a third of food produced every year in the world that is intended for human consumption is wasted, and in Europe, the figure is already 50%, with every citizen on average wasting 105 kilograms per year. We have reached such a level, in fact, that we have to say that we are faced not only with an ethical problem, but with a real economic and social issue, with enormous implications for the environment.

That is why, through this report, we want combating food waste to become a priority on the European Union’s policy agenda. We are therefore asking for the Commission to lead the 27 Member States in adopting a common strategy that can foster a real step change to reduce food waste significantly by 2025.

We therefore ask that all the associations, volunteer groups and initiative-taking centres that have produced specific projects in this area in various countries should be turned to good account. These experiences have generated a virtuous system which has guaranteed significant recovery of products to be sent to those sections of the population that are experiencing financial difficulties.

I would like to remind you that in Europe, wealthy Europe, nearly 70 million citizens live under the poverty threshold and suffer from malnutrition. We are therefore asking for precise directives from the Commission.

Specifically, it would be important to amend the regulations on public procurement for catering services in canteens and hospitals so that, when they are being considered, priority is given, other terms being equal, to those enterprises that have a management model established on combating food waste. On this aspect, I would like to point out that the important fact is that the first to set an example should be the European institutions, starting with this Parliament.

Finally, we are calling for all stakeholders in the agri-food industry to take responsibility. A real awareness-raising campaign needs to be conducted, targeted firstly at the large farmers’ organisations, the world of industry, schools and universities, which can produce a civil and scientific culture oriented towards a more restrained and environmentally sustainable model of consumption.

With this report, the European Parliament has done its part. Now we hope that the Commission will address this work by putting an effective strategy in train. Above all, we hope that swift action will be taken to declare 2014 the European Year against Food Waste; this would be a tangible sign of the institution’s true, strong and immediate commitment in this area.

This would give an immediate signal to all citizens that the European Union is able to be at the forefront in establishing a fairer and balanced development model.

 
  
 

Catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Giovanni La Via (PPE).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, we cannot allow food waste to increase any more, and we must combat it with special instruments, as well as through a culture designed to illustrate its economic, environmental and social effects.

In the last 30 years, food waste has grown by 50%, with consequences that are not only ethical but also economic, environmental, social, nutritional and health-related. It does not seem ethically sustainable that, in the face of the 70 million people, approximately, living in Europe under the poverty threshold, tonnes of food which is still edible are being thrown into the rubbish bin, or that the materials used for the production and packaging of this food are not being sorted as much as possible.

This waste, therefore, entails high economic and social costs. The proposals by the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development cover spheres which, from packaging to more detailed information on the expiry date, are aimed at helping citizens to avoid waste and to reuse products.

 
  
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  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (S&D).(RO) Mr President, annual food waste generation in the 27 Member States is estimated at roughly 179 kilograms per capita. However, 79 million people in the European Union live below the poverty line, and 16 million of them have received food aid from charitable institutions.

Food security is a basic human right that is achieved through the availability, accessibility and temporal stability of healthy, sufficient, adequate and nutritious food. The issue of food waste should be addressed from the standpoint of resource efficiency. We call on the Commission to launch specific initiatives targeting food waste under the Resource-Efficient Europe initiative in order to ensure that the same attention is focused on this and that awareness is also raised about energy efficiency, since both are equally important for the environment and …

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Janusz Wojciechowski (ECR).(PL) Mr President, food wastage is a very important problem and it is a good thing that the European Parliament is dealing with this issue, especially in the context of dramatic forecasts relating to food availability in the coming decades, and the enormous increase in demand for food. The wastage problem is closely related to what we have been discussing about an hour ago, namely, the trade concentration; the fact that the greater part of the food product trade is being taken over by large retail chains. This obviously results in increased food wastage, if only for the fact that, as a rule, more food is purchased in a supermarket than in a small local shop. Therefore, this matter is particularly important. While considering food wastage, we should not forget about land wastage. The food crisis also stems from the fact that ever increasing amounts of land are being excluded from agricultural production. This is a very dangerous process.

 
  
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  Miroslav Mikolášik (PPE). (SK) Mr President, I consider the 90%, up to 115 kg, of food wasted per capita per year to be a sufficiently compelling reason for food waste to become a political priority. Continuing the present rate of waste in the agricultural food chain is not only unsustainable in the long term and irresponsible towards the poorest sections of the population, but also has negative effects on the environment and causes large losses for business and the economy. The rationalisation of production, storage, processing and subsequent distribution and consumption, in which the EU annually loses up to 50% of healthy, usable and edible food, therefore requires a comprehensive European strategy to be drawn up. Surely the 70 million Europeans who live below the poverty line ...

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Mairead McGuinness (PPE). – Mr President, I compliment the rapporteur for his work on this report. It seems to me that it would be an excellent idea to focus our attention on this issue and the year dedicated to it – we proposed 2014. This would be quite sensible. It is also an election year and it is a very practical issue that we can talk about with our citizens. This is not simply about the food we throw out at home: there is huge waste in this institution, I dare say, in hospitals, in public places and right through the food chain.

The debate in this Chamber this morning feeds into, if I can use that phrase, our earlier debate about the entire food supply chain. If we can reduce food waste, we will have a more efficient and more sustainable supply chain, which is vital.

 
  
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  Phil Prendergast (S&D). – Mr President, the world population reached seven billion last year and it is expected to reach more than nine billion by 2050. Because of this, it is vital that we consider the issue of food security and of ensuring that we can produce enough food to feed our growing populations. In focusing on producing enough food for people, we must also look at how we use the food we produce and, to that end, we must also focus on food waste.

Food waste happens at all points of the food chain – at the level of production, at the point of sale and at the point of consumption. However, the points at which food waste typically occurs differ depending on the country. In industrialised countries, most waste is concentrated at the final stages, in distribution and consumption.

In Ireland, it is estimated that up to a third of the food we buy ends up in the bin, potentially costing families more than EUR 1 000 per year. The website stopfoodwaste.ie was set up under the National Waste Prevention Programme to educate people about the issue and to promote awareness of measures to prevent food waste.

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Rareş-Lucian Niculescu (PPE).(RO) Mr President, saving food also means saving water, energy and labour costs. Last but not least, it is a good solution to the problem of the lack of land, which has been much discussed of late.

We should not forget that Europe is much more dependent on land beyond its borders for its food than any other region in the world, using 640 million hectares every year, which is equivalent to one and a half times the area of its own land. Almost 60% of the land used to meet Europe’s needs is actually located in other parts of the world, with an area 10 times bigger than Germany’s, for instance. This again raises the question about what we should do: do we use more land, look for more land elsewhere or use the available resources as efficiently as possible?

 
  
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  Mario Mauro (PPE).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, in addition to thanking Mr Caronna for presenting this issue not only in terms of the implications of the social scandal, but also in terms of the potential opportunities linked to combating waste, I would like to address Mr Tajani in his role as Vice-President of the Commission to stress what is the fundamental point for us, in strategic terms.

How can the Commission contribute to combating waste? It can do so by precisely defining where the expenditure headings for this strategy are allocated. The issue of whether this should be focused within the organisation of social expenditure or should go back to the management and use of the Agriculture Directorate-General’s sector has remained unresolved. This remains a key point because the Directorate-General that has the tradition and the skills to allow the agri-food industry and citizens’ associations and other stakeholders ...

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Anna Záborská (PPE).(SK) Mr President, at a time of crisis and economising, the fact cannot be ignored that up to half of the food produced becomes waste before it reaches the consumer. I would like to thank the rapporteur for opening this topic on the floor of Parliament. Some of the blame for the current situation must be borne by legislation. The obligation of producers to state a best before date and expiry date results in 18% of food ending up as waste simply because people do not consider it to be safe. In some countries, the law does not permit the prices of products to be reduced below cost price, even on their expiry date. This must change. It is a pity that the report does not mention food banks. These non-profit organisations try to replace the wastage of food with its distribution to those who need it the most. We throw food into the bin while the European Union pays for food aid. Let us support the food banks instead.

 
  
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  Anna Maria Corazza Bildt (PPE).(SV) Mr President, we currently throw away a quarter of the food that we take home in our shopping bags in Sweden. That is morally unacceptable and it is also unacceptable from the point of view of the environment and the economy. All of us can do something about this in our kitchens, our homes and when we buy food.

Our role is to highlight the debate, raise awareness and disseminate accurate information. The Commission must provide clarification with regard to date labelling. The ‘best before’ date relates to quality, not safety. More labelling would instead confuse consumers. Lower temperatures in the supply chain for refrigerated foods would also increase durability. I have also been a driving force when it comes to getting the industry to take its share of the responsibility to a greater extent. They meet millions of people every day.

We need to return to the farming culture that entails us using our common sense, being careful with our food and reusing leftovers. Instead, we currently live in a plastic culture. I hope that together, we will be able to change that. That is a challenge.

 
  
 

End of the catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Antonio Tajani, Vice-President of the Commission. (FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I see Mr Swoboda sitting in his seat. I want to wish him the very best in his new role. Of course, I also want to thank the rapporteur, Mr Caronna, and the members of the Committee on Agriculture, the Committee on the Environment and the Committee on the Internal Market for this report. I thank them, too, on behalf of Mr Cioloş, the Commissioner responsible for agricultural policy, who is in Dublin to present the common agricultural policy in Ireland.

Given its negative effects, especially for the environment and food safety, the issue of food waste is clearly receiving more and more attention. In this context, I must also mention the conference held in the European Parliament on 28 October 2010. What can we do at EU level? The Commission, which has already adopted a number of proposals, is currently drawing up additional proposals that will help to tackle the problem of food waste at various levels.

I have already mentioned the CAP reform, which focuses mainly on the production and processing stages of the food supply chain. The existing measures aimed at improving the sustainability of the agricultural sector, such as the agri-environmental measures, will be maintained. Additional measures will be introduced to respond to other recommendations in the report, such as the possibility of including in the rural development programmes thematic sub-programmes to support small holdings and promote the creation of short supply chains. The issue here is food miles.

The Commission is also in the process of developing a European Innovation Partnership on agricultural productivity and sustainability, which aims to promote sustainable agriculture that obtains better results with fewer resources. The high-level fora looking at ways of improving the functioning of the food supply chain, which we discussed this morning, are also examining ways of optimising food packaging and minimising food waste as far as possible.

The Commission uses platforms such as the EU Retail Forum for Sustainability, the European Food Sustainable Consumption and Production Round Table and an informal network of Member States to examine the issue of environmental sustainability.

Moreover, on 20 September, the Commission published a Roadmap to a Resource-Efficient Europe, which aims to transform the European economy into a sustainable system by 2050. It states that food is one of the key sectors that could help us to achieve our goals in terms of efficient resource use. The road map thus lays down the ambitious target of halving edible food waste in the European Union by 2020 and reducing by 20% the food chain’s resource inputs by the same date. This issue appears in the report’s recommendations. The road map also calls for the preparation in 2013 of a communication on sustainable food in order to move this complex issue forward in a coherent and concrete manner. It recommends, too, that a methodology based on sustainability criteria be developed for key food commodities by 2014.

In paragraph 35 of your report, you ask the Commission and the Council to designate 2013 the ‘European Year against Food Waste’. My colleague, Commissioner Dalli, has examined this idea with your rapporteur because everyone is generally in agreement that we have to do something to combat food waste throughout the food chain. However, 2013 is too soon, firstly because in August, the Commission proposed designating 2013 the ‘European Year of Citizens’, and secondly because we need roughly two years to prepare fully all aspects of a European Year.

If we focus on 2014, which is what I took from this debate, it might be possible. I will forward your request to Mr Cioloş and Mr Dalli because I think that we could work together towards that goal.

I would like to thank all of you and the President for this debate, which is of great interest and great importance to us all.

 
  
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  President. – That concludes this item.

The vote will take place today at 12.00.

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  Louis Grech (S&D), in writing. – This report identifies the negative impact that food wastage has on the general population and, in particular, on people living near or below the poverty line. Food wastage occurs at each of the different stages of the food chain – most notably at the final stages of distribution and consumption. A change in practice, management and conduct at the various stages could both make industry more responsible and citizens more aware of this significant problem. We need a long-term action plan which will improve the entire supply chain and will focus on the ethical, economic, environmental, social, nutritional and health implications of food wastage in Europe and worldwide. Action needs to be taken at both national and European level to develop policies which will reduce waste while also improving food production practices in developing countries. The EU needs to address this salient issue in a spirit of cooperation, coordination and through the exchange of policy expertise to enable Europe to use food sustainably – from the moment of production to that of consumption.

 
  
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  Anneli Jäätteenmäki (ALDE), in writing. (FI) It seems incredible that as much as 50% of the food in Europe goes to waste. At the same time, more than a billion people are starving in the world. Consumers must be able to purchase food in small packages. We also need to support locally sourced food, so that food does not spoil on its way to the shop. Locally sourced food benefits both the consumer and the producer. It is fresh, safe and produced in the consumer’s own country. It also boosts the viability of the local region. Locally sourced food is to be recommended.

 
  
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  Jaromír Kohlíček (GUE/NGL), in writing. – (CS) Food wastage, the poor health of the population and unused intellectual potential are only some of the manifestations of the current crisis. As far as food is concerned, humanity is now capable of producing enough food by non-traditional methods, from hydroponics to methods which do not resemble traditional animal and plant production at all. On the other hand, there are several billion people worldwide who make a living in the same way that countless past generations of their ancestors did, through primitive agriculture, with many of them routinely living on the brink of starvation. The world is full of irrational approaches, including the predominance of neoliberal economic schemes promoted by the most powerful countries in the world, but, at the same time, the world has a major problem with maintaining and improving the state of rural areas. The liquidation of food surpluses on the one hand, the effort towards at least slightly socially desirable steps, such as the programmes on consumption of fruit and milk products in schools, and, on the other hand, the possibility of making use – albeit not very rational use – of some types of plants for producing energy inputs shows that even a society as advanced as the EU has no recipe for solving these serious issues at present. Perhaps only a radical systemic change to the economic system across a major part of the world would bring a real solution. As this is not a realistic demand, we will at least support the declaration of 2013 as the European Year against Food Waste.

 
  
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  Vladimír Maňka (S&D), in writing. (SK) The world population is growing, resources are limited, and the poorest groups have inadequate access to food. On the other hand, perfectly usable food is being discarded all over the world: from losses during harvesting or storage, via transportation under conditions that are not particularly safe and errors during packaging, to the bad habits of consumers in the purchase and use of food products.

In the last 40 years, global food waste has increased by 50%.

The production of food that we do not eat results in high costs from energy and natural resources, especially water, and greenhouse gas emissions. The approximately 89 million tonnes of food thrown away in Europe produces 170 million tonnes of CO2 per year. Apart from the environmental damage caused by food production, the costs of processing and disposing of the waste should be taken into account.

Combating food waste must become a priority on Europe’s policy agenda. The Commission, Council and Member States must adopt specific measures aimed at halving the wastage of food by 2025.

We must inform citizens not only of the causes and effects of waste, but also about ways of reducing it.

 
  
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  Tiziano Motti (PPE), in writing.(IT) A study commissioned by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reveals that 1.3 billion tonnes of food for human consumption are wasted every year.

The study also shows that industrialised countries and developing countries waste approximately the same amount of food, 670 and 630 million tonnes respectively. Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tonnes) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes). Fruits and vegetables have the highest wastage rates.

The amount of food lost or wasted every year is equivalent to more than half of the world’s annual cereals crop (2.3 billion tonnes in 2009/2010). Education in schools and political initiatives are possible starting points for changing this behaviour, and could go so far as to also promote, together with other policies, the fight against metabolic diseases based on food.

What is needed is a collective realisation that reduces the commercial value of the appearance and quantity of food, bringing it closer to the real needs of each consumer. This is a difficult challenge, but the European Union can manage it, as it has succeeded in the past with policies with a very strong social impact, such as the ban on smoking in public places.

 
  
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  Sirpa Pietikäinen (PPE), in writing. (FI) I am delighted that we in the EU are at last focusing more attention on a crucial area of food policy, which is to say, food wastage. The report before us summarises well the main problems relating to the issue. This is not just an ethical challenge: food wastage has obvious links to reforms in the agricultural sector, social justice and the issue of hunger. It goes without saying that it is a totally absurd situation where 30-50% of food, depending on the estimate, ends up as waste. Moreover, more and more often, it is waste that is not used in any way.

The proposal in the report now before us that we should halve food waste by 2025 is extremely important, and I give it my full support. However, while we are pondering ways to reduce both waste at different stages of production and consumer waste, we must bear in mind the bigger picture. Agricultural policy is food policy. When this report is adopted, I hope that together we can start to think about how we will judge overall what sort of food policy we are promoting, and what sort of follow-up mechanisms to employ. Cutting food waste will be central to this task. The report’s proposal that 2013 should be declared the European Year against Food Waste would provide us with an excellent opportunity to engage with a more sustainable food policy.

 
  
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  Pavel Poc (S&D), in writing. (CS) According to the Stockholm International Water Institute, almost half of the global harvest is lost ‘between the field and the fork’. The setting of concrete targets and the mandatory collection of food waste in households and catering outlets is, in my opinion, key to ending this waste. This requires the collection of sufficient data on the amount of waste produced in individual Member States, so that an effective statistical comparison can then be drawn. The Commission must not delay with new legislative proposals and must start collecting the necessary data as quickly as possible. Up to 50% of edible and safe food is thrown out in European households, supermarkets and restaurants every year, while 79 million EU citizens live below the poverty line and 16 million are dependent on food aid from charities. According to studies published by the Commission, food waste will increase by 40% by 2020, unless effective steps are taken. The fact that we fail to consume more than one third of the food we cultivate is a problem not just from an ethical perspective, but also from an environmental perspective. Every tonne of food waste represents the equivalent of 4.5 tonnes of CO2, the unnecessary consumption of water and energy, and the unnecessary use of agricultural land. If we planted trees everywhere where the crops that are never consumed are now cultivated, we would theoretically remove 100% of greenhouse emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.

 
  
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  Daciana Octavia Sârbu (S&D), in writing.(RO) I would like to welcome Mr Caronna’s report against a background of increasingly heated debate about food security and sustainable agriculture. On a global scale, enough food is produced to meet food requirements. However, the problem lies in its unequal distribution and wastage. While people are dying of hunger in Africa, according to an FAO study in Europe, Europeans and North Americans waste between 95 and 115 kg of food per capita every year. I wish to take this opportunity to call on the Commission to promote public awareness campaigns about food wastage, and I urge both farmers and economic operators to take measures to prevent the wastage of agricultural produce in both the field and food chain.

 
  
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  Valdemar Tomaševski (ECR), in writing.(PL) Food wastage has reached such high levels that it may soon be recognised as a worldwide problem. Since the 1970s, it has increased by over 50% globally. Food is being wasted everywhere: from harvest time in the fields, throughout the processing industry and, finally and most significantly, in consumers’ homes. Europe and North America are the undisputed front-runners in this shameful competition. Annually, the inhabitants of these two continents waste up to 115 kilograms of food per capita. Within the European Union itself, this indicator is even higher. According to the European Commission’s statistical data, Europeans throw out 179 kilograms of food per capita, which annually amounts to approximately 89 million tonnes of permanently wasted food.

Contrary to popular belief, it is not overproduction that is the main cause of food wastage and – in the longer term – of hunger, but inadequate stock management and inappropriate marketing strategies aimed exclusively at maximising profit. It would appear however, that the factor that contributes most to the increase in waste is the placement of only one expiry date on labels, namely, the ‘best before’ date. Producers should be encouraged to place two pieces of information on labels. In other words, they should add a ‘use by’ date. The term ‘best before’ refers to the quality of the product, while the term ‘use by’ refers to its safety. This will help consumers make informed choices and, most importantly, prevent them from discarding food which is still edible.

 
  
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  Dominique Vlasto (PPE), in writing.(FR) Food waste is getting worse every year, while raw materials are becoming scarcer and malnutrition is spreading throughout Europe. Some 89 million tonnes of food are disposed of each year (179 kg/year/person), yet most of it is safe and edible. I think we need to examine the causes of waste in order to reduce this phenomenon. We need to raise public awareness though European and national campaigns and, more specifically, teach children about this issue in schools. A double expiry date, with separate ‘sell by’ and ‘use by’ dates, would, for example, prevent food from being wasted. Use of this double label must, however, be accompanied by information for the customers, who must understand what it means. In my opinion, the European Union should promote a spirit of solidarity in the catering and large-scale distribution sectors to encourage them to redistribute free of charge to food banks or disadvantaged persons any unsold food that is still edible. If we do not react urgently to this situation, the people of Europe will not understand!

 
  
  

(The sitting was suspended at 11.55 and resumed at 12.00)

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: GIANNI PITTELLA
Vice-President

 
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