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Retailers press for rules that help, not hinder tackling food waste

25 January 2017
by EuroCommerce -- last modified 25 January 2017

Retailers and wholesalers today called on national governments and the EU to make it easier to reduce food waste and increase food donation.


Retailers and wholesalers today called on national governments and the EU to make it easier to reduce food waste and increase food donation. While all parties in the food chain have a responsibility, and therefore a role to play, in solving this global problem, governments need to help as well. Europeans throw away more than 88 million tonnes of food every year. If there is no action to change this, food waste could rise to over 120 million tonnes by 2020. Christian Verschueren, Director-General of EuroCommerce, said: "It is a scandal, both environmentally and socially, that wholesome food goes to waste. We call upon the EU and national governments to look carefully at their rules and help address the obstacles holding us all back from exploiting the potential for moving closer to eliminating food waste."

In this context, retailers and wholesalers are encouraged by the European Parliament own-initiative report drafted by Biljana Borzan MEP (HR, S&D) and endorsed by the European Parliament's Environment Committee yesterday. The draft report also recommends that these governments support these actions, for example through tax exemptions for food donations. The own-initiative report also calls for an EU food waste hierarchy and definition. As the recent European Court of Auditors' report on food waste also suggests, there are plenty of opportunities and solutions available, without the need for additional legislation or costs. We need European and national policies and regulation which are smart and allow market players to come up with innovative solutions to tackling food waste.

However, retailers have not waited for government action to be part of the solution. Christian Verschueren added : "Although retailers account for no more than 5% of the waste generated, we recognise our role in reducing waste, starting with our own operations, but also increasingly encouraging major reductions in food waste where it occurs most: in the home and upstream in the food chain."

To document the many ways in which retailers help to reduce food waste and loss, EuroCommerce is launching today a report "Rising to the Food Waste Challenge" setting out best practice and case studies from its own members, such as :

  • reducing waste in their own stores by improving inventories
  • working with farmers and suppliers to better match production with retail demand
  • encouraging consumers to make the most of the food they buy food in simple ways, such as explaining the difference between "use by" and "best before" dates, and suggesting recipes for using up leftovers
  • processing unattractive but nutritious fruit and vegetables into salads or soups.
  • working with food banks and charities to donate food that is not sold.

These are all in line with the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) Food Waste Resolution, a pledge by leading food companies and retailers to halve food wasted in their operations by 2025. The report was released and discussed at a dinner today hosted by Mrs Borzan, who explicitly recognised the successful voluntary action already being adopted in different parts of the value chain, and in particular retail.

EuroCommerce is the principal European organisation representing the retail and wholesale sector. It embraces national associations in 31 countries and 5.4 million companies, both leading multinational retailers such as Carrefour, Ikea, Metro and Tesco and many small family operations. Retail and wholesale provide a link between producers and 500 million European consumers over a billion times a day. It generates 1 in 7 jobs, providing a varied career for 29 million Europeans, many of them young people. It also supports millions of further jobs throughout the supply chain, from small local suppliers to international businesses. EuroCommerce is the recognised European social partner for the retail and wholesale sector.

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