Defra is consulting – again – with large food companies on whether they should be required to report their food waste figures.

The government is keen to understand if the move will put up food prices, as stubborn inflation rates continue to threaten Rishi Sunak’s economic promises.

Will someone please call Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell to tell them the cameras are still rolling? It’s Groundhog Day, all over again.

It was in June 2022 that Defra first opened a consultation on plans to introduce mandatory food waste reporting, that had first been promised by former environment secretary Michael Gove four years earlier.

It would take more than another year before The Grocer was able to reveal Defra, despite receiving what it conceded was overwhelming support from most respondents, had decided to ditch the plans because it feared they would drive up food prices.

That’s despite 80% of the nearly 4,000 people and businesses who responded to the consultation being in favour of mandatory reporting.

Why would Defra ask the industry about food waste again?

Common sense appeared to have broken out in the Defra building in November, when new environment minister Steve Barclay dropped the government’s opposition to mandatory reporting as one of his first acts following the departure of Thérèse Coffey.

So why on earth do we need to go back and ask the industry again?

Organisations that have backed mandatory reporting include the BRC, FDF and Wrap – the very organisation that is running the new survey of businesses.

Surely Wrap already knows exactly how a system would work – if there is any doubt, all it need do is ask Tesco.

When industry leaders are demanding decisive action to tackle food waste, including FareShare CEO George Wright who last week called on ministers to “pull their fingers out”, it smacks of anything but for Wrap and Defra to be going back to the industry.

How the next government will deal with food waste

Surely, having had six years to develop plans for a system of reporting, the UK’s finest food waste brains don’t need any more evidence.

It almost seems Defra wants someone to justify last year’s decision by unearthing new cost fears.

The suspicion, sadly, is this new consultation with big businesses and the hospitality sector will effectively kick the can further down the road, and leave the next government to deal with food waste reporting.

If so, it would undo a lot of the good that came last week when the PM finally announced the government was bowing to pressure to provide millions in funding towards food surplus being redistributed to hunger charities.

The fact is we don’t require more evidence that mandatory food waste reporting is needed.

The plans have the required support from industry and the public. They should be turned into regulation now.