Food waste (1)

Defra has launched a new consultation with large food companies and hospitality businesses over plans to introduce mandatory reporting on food waste.

In it, the government calls for “additional evidence” on the potential cost implications of introducing measuring and reporting.

The move follows the announcement in November by environment secretary Steve Barclay that he was considering a u-turn on Thérèse Coffey’s controversial decision to scrap the plans, despite them having been first promised by Michael Gove in 2018.

The new call for evidence is being jointly carried out with government health experts Wrap, which has consistently stressed the need for mandatory reporting to effectively tackle food waste.

However, it will reawaken the debate over the possibility of new reporting requirments putting pressure on inflation. 

The document says: “Defra is seeking additional evidence on the barriers and enablers of food waste reporting by businesses, including a further understanding of whether the potential financial costs or savings associated with measuring and reporting would impact consumers.”

Coffey’s scrapping of the plans came after Defra claimed they could drive up food prices, even though there was overwhelming support for mandatory reporting in its official consultation.

However, it has stopped short of launching a full new consultation with other groups outside the industry.

Despite the fears over costs, there has been widespread support for mandatory reporting, including organisations such as the BRC, with Tesco a leading supporter of the plans, having spearheaded reporting in its supply chain.

Last week, FareShare CEO George Wright called on ministers to “pull their finger” out and get on with introducing mandatory reporting. He said the move would provide much greater transparency over the availability of food surplus. Also last week, prime minister Rishi Sunak announced a new £15m fund to help the costs of redistributing food surplus to charities helping people suffering from the hunger crisis.

The u-turn on mandatory reporting last year was the subject of fury from food campaigners, with the government having faced legal action from campaign group Feedback, which successfully took the government to court to argue the move was unlawful under the 2008 Climate Change Act.