Rotting tomatoes

Government should do more to tackle ’the grotesque economic, social and environmental costs’ of Food Waste says a new EFRA report

Government should force supermarkets to reveal their food waste figures, an Efra inquiry has recommended.

Released today after months of written evidence and seven oral hearings, the select committee report Food Waste in England sets out more than 10 recommendations to the next government for tackling food surplus in the UK.

These include calls for a national food waste reduction target, a review of Wrap funding, and a requirement for all supermarkets ‘over a particular size’ to publicly reveal their food waste data, following in the footsteps of Tesco and Sainsbury’s.

The committee also called for the incoming government to look at how further fiscal measures might boost the redistribution of surplus food, in line with The Grocer’s own Waste Not Want Not campaign, which calls for tax breaks to compensate businesses for the costs of redistribution.

“Food waste has grotesque economic, social and environmental costs,” said committee chair MP Neil Parish. “Socially it is a scandal that people are going hungry and using food banks when so much produce is being wasted. And environmentally it is a disaster, because energy and resources are wasted in production, only for the food to end up rotting in landfills where it produces methane – a potent climate-changing gas.

“We commend Tesco for publishing its food waste data from across the supply chain. Sainsbury’s is moving in the same direction, but needs more transparency. The fact that no other retailers have followed their lead shows that a voluntary approach is inadequate.

“The government needs to step in and force other major supermarkets to be transparent about food waste.”

Held accountable

Publication of the 44-page report had to be accelerated following announcement of the “unexpected and imminent” general election earlier this month, but FareShare CEO Lindsay Boswell believes the timing now allows politicians to be held accountable on their food waste policies ahead of the vote on 8 June.

“I applaud the committee on the way they’ve managed to get that report pulled together before we get into the vacuum or inertia of the purdah period,” he said. “For it to come out after the election would be a missed opportunity. People can, and we will be, challenging Defra, government and the political parties to say, what are your responses to this.”

Along with The Grocer, FareShare has repeatedly called for the introduction of fiscal measures to alleviate the estimated £100 per tonne cost of redistributing surplus food to charities, a position repeated by Boswell when he appeared as a witness before the committee in November.

And though the report stops short of directly backing these proposals, it does call for review by government of ‘how it might further promote the redistribution of surplus food by additional fiscal measures’.

“Perhaps had they had a bit longer there would’ve been an opportunity to be more directive in terms of what they wanted to happen,” added Boswell. “I would like them to have said, ‘we think this is what you ought to be doing,’ rather than calling for government to look into it, but it’s fantastic there is a select committee report on the whole area of food waste.

“Following on the back of the House of Lords report, this is the second non-partisan, cross-government piece of work calling on similar step changes and behaviour to be made. The big challenge is, what’s the answer that each political party will give? We now have a mandate to be able to ask those questions. As does The Grocer. And that’s a really helpful place to be.”

10 core recommendations:

• The government should establish a national food waste reduction target

• Food businesses over a particular size should be required to publicly report data on food waste.

• Defra should review funding to Wrap and increase it if necessary in the lead up to 2025.

• Government should take steps to better communicate the current tax breaks and incentives that are available to companies, in order to support their efforts to redistribute surplus food. They should also look into how additional fiscal measures might help further.

• The incoming government should continue the current review with WRAP and the Food Standards Agency on food date labelling with a view to issuing guidance to industry by the end of 2017

• The government should require food businesses and retailers over a particular size to separate food waste for collection

• Supermarkets should make improvements to their packaging, such as increasing the use of split and re-sealable packets, to help consumers reduce food waste.

• WRAP and the Government should re-double their efforts to increase participation in the Courtauld process by food manufacturers

• Retailers should relax their quality standards and start selling ‘wonky vegetables’ as part of their main fruit and vegetable lines.

• The government should examine how lessons on food and food waste can be incorporated into the school curriculum