Retailers under spotlight as global action on food waste gathers pace

Retailers and their supply chains are being targeted in a far-reaching campaign launched today that aims to accelerate action on tackling food waste.

The initiative, which has got backing on a global scale, aims to place pressure on food retailers to undertake detailed waste audits and product loss analysis for high-waste areas.

It will also encourage them to work more closely with their suppliers to reduce waste, offer discounts for near-expiration items, redesign product displays with less excess, standardise labelling and increase food donations.

The campaign comes in the wake of a hard-hitting report released earlier this month by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, which revealed that up to 2 billion tonnes of the world's food production is going to waste each year.

Launched in the form of an online portal, the 'Think.Eat.Save. Reduce Your Foodprint' campaign will offer advice and tools for businesses to reduce losses and waste along the entire value chain of food production and consumption.

It is being led by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO), and harnesses the expertise of UK organisations such as WRAP.

According to FAO, worldwide about one-third of all food produced gets lost or wasted in food production and consumption systems.

These losses occurs mostly at the production stages - harvesting, processing and distribution - while food waste typically takes place at the retailer and consumer end of the food-supply chain.

UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP executive director Achim Steiner said that a transformation was needed in the way society produces and consumes its natural resources.

"Aside from the cost implications, all the land, water, fertilisers and labour needed to grow that food is wasted - not to mention the generation of greenhouse gas emissions produced by food decomposing on landfill and the transport of food that is ultimately thrown away," he added.

Growing evidence suggests that the global food system has profound implications for the environment such as deforestation and freshwater scarcity, and that producing more food than is consumed only exacerbates these pressures.

Using the portal, food retailers will be able to pledge to measure the food they waste and put in place targets to reduce it.

The campaign is also hoping to attract interest from the hospitality sector - just yesterday the Sustainable Restaurant Association called on food outlets to clamp down on the "unacceptable" amount of food being thrown away within their practices.

The issue of food waste is now rapidly rising up the agenda at EU level - the European Commission has set a target for all European member states to halve edible food waste by 2020 and to virtually eliminate landfilling by 2020

European Commissioner for the Environment Janez Potočnik recently confirmed that the Commission is planning to present ideas next year on the sustainability of the food system which will have a strong focus on food waste.

Maxine Perella


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