EU court of auditors attacks Commission for its failures on food waste

By Louis Gore-Langton

- Last updated on GMT

European auditors have slammed the commission's lack of action on food waste ©iStock
European auditors have slammed the commission's lack of action on food waste ©iStock
EU auditors said the European Commission’s efforts to tackle food waste have lacked effort, coordination, been fragmented and intermittent - and without even a real definition of food waste, in a report released yesterday.

The report​ ​attacks the total lack of organisation and communication within the European Union and the European Commission to align different policies and structures that could make an effective impact on reducing food waste.

Currently a number of initiatives exist aimed at addressing the issue; auditors say establishing these initiatives has taken the bulk of the commission’s work and resulted in very little.

An ‘expert panel’ created in 2014 for example, has met only twice so far.

The most recent and major initiative, the ‘Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste’ is bringing together 70 officials representing government, private sector, scientific research bodies and international organisations. The commission has not even clarified if this body will replace or work alongside the expert panel.

According to the auditors, the platform is insufficient in scope and coordination to address the level and urgency of food waste issues.

By focussing time and resources into establishing another initiative, valuable opportunities to effectively tackle the problem have been missed yet again, says the report.

Above all, the failure to establish common parameters for what can be considered ‘food waste’ has hampered communication between different bodies such as the Committee, Parliament, Council and G20.

Different definitions continue to be used by various member states, the UN and different European bodies. For the purpose of the report, the auditors defined waste simply as food that could have been consumed if handled differently.

As a result of this lack of communication, it says, responsibility has largely fallen back on separate member states who cannot properly address wastage issues in isolation.

Recommendations

Rather than establishing costly new bodies to continue discussion of potential solutions, the auditors have said that immediately aligning different policy areas could substantially off set wastage.

Inclusion of waste issues in the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) which is due to come under review, would help tackle the 30% of total food waste lost in growth and production.

Similarly the report recommends stricter controls on the Common Fishing Policy (CFP) to ensure unwanted catches are not wastefully discarded.

Waste to profit

The failure to adequately define 'food waste' means that estimations of the current impact and potential benefits of a truly efficient system vary greatly from source to source.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) around a third of all food in the world is thought to be wasted; in the EU this amounts to 88 million tonnes per year, part of a global wastage of 1.3 billion tonnes.

The European commission itself has estimated EU food waste to rise to 126 million tonnes by 2020. This is thought to cost around €143 billion per year.

A report​ by the European Environmental Bureau in 2014 said that efficient solutions to the food waste crisis could create more than 800,000 new jobs.

Related topics: Regulation & Safety, Sustainability