On 29th November the first meeting of the European Commission Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste (FLW) took place at the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) building in Brussels. The FLW is a Platform set up by the European Commission Directorate General for Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE) to create a methodology for preventing and reducing food losses and food waste in collaboration with EU Member States and a number of stakeholders among international organisations, trade associations, and NGOs working on this issue. The FLW is a requirement of the new EC Directive proposal – COM (2015) 595 final- amending the Waste Framework Directive (WFD) (2008/98/EC).
Healthcare Without Harm (HCWH) Europe has been invited to participate in the Platform and was present at the first meeting, with a specific interest in the definition of a methodology that would be applicable to the healthcare sector in Europe, where plate waste is higher than in other foodservice settings - with an average of 30% food waste by weight of food served (ranging from 6 to 65%).
Health and Food Safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis opened the meeting, and reiterated the commitment of the European Union and the Member States to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and in particular to support the achievement of the SDG 12.3 target of reducing food waste by 50% by 2030.
Alexandra Nikolakopoulou, Head of Unit for Food information and Composition at DG Health and Food Safety outlined the Commission’s expectations for the results of the platform. She said that she hoped the Platform would be a forum of exchange for identifying, sharing, and scaling-up food waste prevention solutions.
The Platform is not a regulatory committee, but will work on voluntary guidelines for food waste measurement, food donation, and date marking initiatives to be implemented in Member States. Other interests that will be considered by the Platform members are awareness raising/information campaigns, education, and training initiatives to help the public better understand the date marking of products and how to prevent and reduce food waste in households. Sub groups will be formed to examine specific issues and report back to the Platform. The Commission has proposed that subgroups are established to work on guidelines for food donations and food waste measurement.
In terms of food donation, the aim for the Commission is to complement and not duplicate national or sectoral guidelines, while clarifying the relevant provisions of EU legislation and lifting barriers to food redistribution, within the current EU regulatory framework. Special attention will be given to hygiene requirements for food redistribution from catering, hospitality, and food services.
Image from the FLW Platform meeting on 29th November
In relation to the establishment of an EU-wide methodology for monitoring food waste, the Commission will encourage Member States to reduce food waste at each stage of the food supply chain (including in households), monitor food waste levels, and report back on progress. Member States will be encouraged to provide data on levels of food waste in 5 sector categories as defined in Art 9 of the Waste Framework Directive: primary production, process and manufacturing, retail and other distribution, food services, and households. The healthcare sector will fall under the food services category. As each sector requires different policy approach, they will be monitored separately.
HCWH Europe welcomes the decision of the European Commission to tackle the problem of food waste in the healthcare sector under the food services category, particularly because this is an important improvement from the FUSIONS project, which did not consider food waste in the healthcare sector.
However, in measuring and reducing food waste the healthcare sector presents unique challenges that are different to other food service sectors and will need to be addressed separately. These challenges include meal planning, patients’ dietary recommendations, and ordering systems.
Click here to download HCWH Europe's Food waste in European healthcare settings brochure.
In addition, as the basis for the work of the Platform is waste legislation, HCWH Europe is surprised and concerned that DG Environment - the leading DG in waste legislation - is not involved in this process at all. HCWH Europe believes that the presence of DG Environment is vital for the platform to produce outcomes that are in line with EU waste legislation.
Moreover, as was highlighted at the meeting by many members of the Platform, a harmonised definition of food waste and a new definition of a food waste hierarchy are also necessary. This is because Member States currently work with different national definitions and, as a result, with different food waste reduction methodologies.
HCWH Europe believes that a definition of food waste and a definition of food waste hierarchy should be included in the new directive proposal for revising the WFD, as this will create a legal obligation for Member States to implement them.
The European Commission should also foresee the creation of incentives for preventing and reducing food waste in the different sectors.
Platform members now have time to send their feedback to DG SANTE on the proposed actions and provide further recommendations by 20th January 2017. A digital platform will soon be created as a knowledge hub to foster communication and exchange among Platform members. The Platform meetings are expected to take place twice a year until 2019.
Food waste is a problem that concerns all sectors and if it is reduced and prevented, it could considerably reduce costs. Europe should take this opportunity to set an example for the rest of the world and establish clear guidelines for all sectors, including healthcare, to measure and consequently prevent/reduce food waste in years to come.
Click here to view the presentations and a recording of the meeting of the EU Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste that was held on 29th November 2016.