An MP says she has widespread support for proposed legislation to force businesses to divert food waste to charity.
Kerry McCarthy, a Labour shadow minister, introduced a private member’s bill seeking to oblige supermarkets and manufacturers to donate surplus food for redistribution to people in food poverty.
The Bill would also force business to send food waste unfit for human consumption for use in livestock feed, and enshrine in law the waste hierarchy for all food-handling businesses and public bodies.
The MP said the ideas behind her proposals had the backing of Labour’s Defra team. The bill has cross-party support as well as backing from charities and environmental campaigners.
McCarthy has met Defra minister Lord Taylor over the issue who, while active on food waste, is not convinced of the need for legislation.
She believes he “may be prepared to move” on the proposal to protect food donors from civil and criminal liability, except in cases of gross negligence or intentional misconduct.
McCarthy said that while domestic food waste was being reduced, “not enough is happening in the retail and manufacturing sector” where 3.6 million tonnes of food is wasted a year, with only around 10,000 tonnes being redistributed.
She told MRW: “The priority has to be using food for human consumption,” adding that livestock feed should come before anaerobic digestion.
While there is government support for diverting food waste from landfill, and subsidies for AD, McCarthy said “there is no support for things higher up the hierarchy”.
“If food is fit for consumption, especially when we have such dreadful food poverty, and prices are rising higher than inflation, then steps need to be taken to encourage that.”
The Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association welcomed the bill.
Chief executive Charlotte Morton said: “Diverting food that would otherwise be wasted to charity needs to be a priority.
“However, as much as we need to aim not to produce so much food waste in the first instance, there will always be a part which cannot be sent to charity, due to contamination, or spoilage for example. This portion can still provide huge benefits if treated through anaerobic digestion.”
The bill passed its first reading and will be debated again on 27 April.