Environment Committee politicians voted on Thursday a report calling on EU countries to cut food waste levels by half by 2030. They’ve also urged the Commission to lift restrictions on food donations and simplify the “best before” and “use by” dates labelling.

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) backed up a number of measures to cut the 88 million tonnes of food wasted annually in the EU. The report urges countries to achieve a 30 percent food waste reduction by 2025 and 50 percent by 2030, pursuing the goals set out by the Parliament in March when its waste legislation was voted.

“In developed countries food is wasted mostly at the end of the chain, at distribution and consumption. Everyone has a responsibility to tackle this problem”, said lead MEP Biljana Borzan.

The Environment Committee stressed out the need for national authorities and stakeholders to educate consumers in the understanding of “use by” and “best before” dates, which can be confusing in Borzan’s opinion: “My report calls for a coordinated policy response on labelling, liability and education, as most consumers do not understand the precise meaning of “best before” and “use by” labelling”.

Eventually, the Commission will have to examine the potential benefits of removing certain dates for products without any risk to public health or the environment.

Tax exemptions will also be looked into as a way to encourage and facilitate food donations. Also, the EU Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD) should get the possibility to finance the cost of collecting, transporting, storing and distributing food donations

“We should address the shortcomings of existing EU legislation where it hinders food donations. We need to update our common VAT system to allow for tax exemptions,” noted the report’s author. “A form of “good Samaritan” legislation at EU level could lead to greater volumes of food being donated and reducing food being wasted, without compromising current standards of food safety”, she added.

In the EU, food waste has been estimated at some 88 million tonnes, or 173 kg per capita each year. The production and disposal of this food waste lead to the emission of 170 million tonnes of CO2 and consumes 261 million tonnes of resources.

Among the countries with the highest food waste levels are the Netherlands (541 kg per capita and per year) and Belgium (345 kg), while Slovenia (72kg) Malta and Romania (76kg) are the lowest food waste generators.

The report, which was adopted unanimously, will be put to a vote by the full House in May during the plenary session in Strasbourg.

Photo: U.S. Department of Agriculture via Flickr

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