The government is to reconsider its decision to scrap plans for mandatory food waste reporting, following pressure from campaign groups, the food industry and The Grocer.
New environment secretary Steve Barclay announced the decision just days after taking over from Thérèse Coffey in last week’s cabinet reshuffle.
The u-turn came as campaigners including celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and business leaders from food and drink joined forces to back a fundraising drive to pay for a judicial review to challenge a decision announced by Defra in the summer to scrap plans first announced by Michael Gove in 2018.
Defra claimed the cost of imposing mandatory reporting on businesses could drive up food prices, even though there was overwhelming support for mandatory reporting in its official consultation.
However, in a statement released on its website, Defra said: “The secretary of state for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs will reconsider whether there should be mandatory food waste reporting in the future.The government response to this consultation has been withdrawn.”
Lawyers Leigh Day filed an application for the judicial review last month on behalf of the campaign group Feedback.
This week, The Grocer revealed Fearnley-Whittingstall was fronting a video appeal to support a crowdfunding effort by Feedback to pay for the proceedings.
Gove’s decision to go ahead with mandatory reporting was one of a series of major victories for The Grocer’s long-running Waste Not Want Not campaign.
Defra’s rowback under Coffey came despite 80% of the nearly 4,000 people and businesses who responded to the consultation being in favour of mandating businesses to report food waste volumes.
“We’re delighted the new secretary of state has u-turned on his predecessor’s reckless decision to scrap plans to introduce mandatory food waste reporting for big businesses,” said Feedback executive director Carina Millstone.
“However, we cannot allow Defra to kick action on food waste into the long grass, yet again. All the evidence supports the case for mandatory food waste reporting. The government’s climate and waste experts recommend it, the impact assessment shows it will result in cost savings, and the vast majority of consultation respondents, including the majority of businesses, are in favour.
“The time for delay is over – the government must introduce this popular, effective and no-brainer measure to reduce emissions and tackle the scourge of food waste during the cost of living crisis now.”
Leigh Day solicitor Ricardo Gama added: “Our clients are delighted that the new secretary of state for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs decided to review his predecessor’s decision not to introduce mandatory food waste reporting. His decision must make sense given that all the evidence shows that the costs to the shopper of introducing a mandatory requirement will be massively outweighed by savings which would be achieved by reductions in food waste.”
The FDF also told The Grocer it was supportive of mandatory reporting.
“We are strongly supportive of alignment with existing reporting requirements under the Food Waste Reduction Roadmap.
“This will maintain consistency across industry, including those companies that are using the FWRR and are outside the scope of this regulation. It also reduces the need for retraining and updating systems within those companies already following the FWRR. The reporting should not detract from the task of minimising waste itself, so should be as least burdensome as possible.
“Additionally, it would be good to bring in greater digitisation, which can give greater transparency on supply chain waste.”