Waste targets should be imposed by government, in line with procedures adopted by other countries, said the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) committee chair Neil Parish, Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton.
Parish said: “The government should drive progress on food waste in England by setting a national target for food waste reduction, in the way that Scotland, the US and many of our European counterparts do.
“Supermarkets need to do much more. It’s ridiculous that perfectly good vegetables are wasted simply because they’re a funny shape. Farmers supplying fruits and vegetables to UK supermarkets currently get their produce rejected on the grounds that it fails to meet cosmetic quality standards set by the big retailers.”
Other key report recommendations included separating food waste, the improved communication of waste incentives and a review of food labelling.
Mandated to separate food waste
Larger scale food manufacturers should be mandated to separate food waste, said the committee. The amount of food supermarkets throw away should be made public too, recommended an EFRA report, released on April 30. The report outlined key recommendations for the food industry to reduce or redistribute waste.
The government and food waste organisation the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) must redouble their efforts in encouraging food manufacturers to sign up to the Courtald Commitment – a voluntary agreement aimed at reducing food waste, said the report.
Tax breaks and incentives for food businesses that reduce waste should be better communicated by the incoming government, the committee said. Manufacturers and retailers over a particular size should also be mandated to separate food waste.
The government must also provide WRAP with sufficient public funding, it recommended. It came after WRAP’s funding had reduced over recent years, it said.
Food labelling should continue to be reviewed, it added. Specifically, whether there is a need for ‘best before’ dates at all.
Speaking about the select committee report, University of Coventry food waste researcher Jordon Lazell said consumers weren’t solely to blame, and businesses should do more to reduce waste.
‘Tempt consumers with offers and deals’
Lazell told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “Supermarkets have a key role to play in mitigating not just their own waste generated at retail level, but also food waste across the supply chain from farm to fork. Measures such as the increased transparency of supermarket operations and mandatory re-distribution activities can potentially have a huge impact.”
One-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally – about 1.3bnt a year – according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation. In the UK, more than £10bn worth of food is wasted by households every year.
Meanwhile, Tesco’s strategic adviser has called for a review of traffic light nutrition labels, to make them more understandable for consumers.
Key food waste recommendations
- The incoming government must work with the Environment Agency to enforce the waste hierarchy
- WRAP and the government must re-double their efforts to increase participation in The Courtauld Commitment by food manufacturers
- There should be a national food waste target
- It is essential that the government provides WRAP with sufficient public funding
- Food businesses over a particular size should publicly report data on food waste
- Retailers must work with WRAP to agree a consistent method of waste reporting
- Issue industry guidance on food labelling by the end of 2017
- Retailers should relax their quality standards and start selling “wonky vegetables”
- Retailers should double the proportion of surplus food they redistribute to charities and voluntary organisations
- Better communicate the current tax breaks and incentives that are available to companies
- Further promote the redistribution of surplus food by additional fiscal measures
- Local authorities should increase food waste collections
- Examine opportunities to incentivise local authorities in reducing food waste
- Introduce separate food waste collection when new waste contracts are put in place
- Introduce a national strategy to ensure a consistent collection of waste and recycling across England
- Food businesses and retailers should separate food waste
Source: EFRA report