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How to Use Food Waste in Better Ways

26 August 2013

ANALYSIS - Earlier this year, there were reports from organisations in the UK and also from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations about the amount of food that goes to waste. Following these reports, a European initiative is seeking to reduce the waste and redistribute surplus food.

The declaration is in line with the European Commission’s goal of halving edible food waste by 2020.

Initiated by FoodDrink Europe, the trade association, which represents the food and drink industries in Europe, and co-signed by several other European trade associations and by the European Federation of Food Banks, FEBA, the EU-wide declaration aims at preventing edible food from being wasted but also promotes the redirection of surplus to feed people through the support to food redistribution organisations, before it goes to feed animal or to industrial uses.

The Every Crumb Counts campaign maintains: “When food is unable to stay within the human food chain and be redirected to feed people, the optimal solution will depend on a case by case evaluation.

“A first consideration should be whether it can be redirected to feed livestock subject to safety, quality and legislative requirements being met.

“Otherwise, consideration should be given to using it as a raw material for other industries (e.g. detergents, inks, cosmetics, plastics and pharmaceuticals) or recovery (e.g. transformed into fertilizer or compost or used for renewable energy production). Only as a last resort should it be incinerated without energy recovery or sent to landfill.”

Patrick Alix, representative of FEBA, emphasised the importance of the initiative and gave a message from Isabel Jonet, President of FEBA: “Recovering edible food before it is destroyed and redistributing it to charities, which take care of people in need, is the ‘raison d’être’ of our network of 253 Food Banks in 21 European countries.

“FEBA thoroughly supports this Joint Declaration on Food wastage as we are convinced that building stronger cooperation between food banks and FoodDrink Europe members is a very efficient and proven way to reduce food waste and hunger simultaneously.”

The better food safety and quality are preserved, the more likely it is that food wastage can be prevented, used or redirected to feed animals and industrial use. So protecting food from damage and spoilage along the chain is paramount, the Every Crumb Counts campaign maintains.

However, it points out that food wastage occurs all along the food chain and requires action from all food chain actors.

But the campaign also stresses that there is a lack of a common EU definition and methodology, which is “complicating the quantification and monitoring of on-going food waste prevention efforts, as existing EU data is currently not reliable”.

The campaign has called on policy makers to “pay particular attention to food wastage when developing policy and setting public procurement standards, develop, together with relevant food chain players, guidelines for Member States to optimise the use of food that has been withdrawn but is still safe and suitable for use, with strict adherence to food and feed safety legislation and increase the focus of EU development cooperation on measures to prevent food wastage in developing and low-income countries”.

The campaign is also encouraging food and packaging operators to find new innovative ways to guarantee and preserve food quality, freshness and safety, including by looking for packaging solutions that allow shelf-life extension and by offering a range of portion sizes, as different packaging sizes and in-pack portioning can help cater to different lifestyles and household needs. Innovations that help keep packaging intact all along the supply chain can also be a contribution.

The initiative has also called on EU policymakers to develop EU Food Donation Guidelines for food donors and food redistribution organisations on how to comply with the EU Food Hygiene legislation.

“It should clarify the types of food that are suitable for donation, conditions for transport, traceability and legal liability, among other issues,” the Every Crumb Counts campaign says.

The campaign also calls for consideration of how potential food waste that is not fit or cannot feasibly be made for human consumption can be converted into valuable commodities, such as animal feed or industrial products.

Using would-be food wastage from food supply chain actors as a raw material for another industry helps reduce agricultural pressures on the environment and generates mutual value by creating cost savings and new revenue.

In the UK a new campaign has been launched called The Pig Idea which echoes the call for waste food to be converted into feed for pigs.

The Pig Idea started by food waste expert Tristram Stuart and the Feeding the 5000 team in partnership with chef Thomasina Miers aims to encourage the use of food waste to feed pigs and to divert legally permissible food waste.

Ultimately it aims to overturn the EU ban on the feeding of catering waste, or swill, to pigs.

Chris Harris

Chris Harris

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