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MP renews food waste campaign

Labour shadow minister Kerry McCarthy has renewed her campaign to tackle food waste by legislation in the House of Commons.

The MP for Bristol East, McCarthy will introduce the Food Waste (Reduction) Bill, a 10-minute rule bill, on 9 September. Such bills rarely progress at Westminster but can add to pressure for policy change.

The bill proposes that large supermarkets, manufacturers and distributors should reduce their food waste by 30% by 2025 and enter into formal agreements with charities. It calls for these companies to disclose levels of food waste in their supply chain.

It also seeks incentives and further encouragement for companies implementing the food waste reduction hierarchy.

Kerry McCarthy MP

McCarthy (left) originally introduced a food waste bill in 2012, proposing similar obligations on businesses to send waste to charity.

But the Government refused to back the proposal, with the then cabinet secretary Francis Maude saying it was not his objective to reduce the amount of food waste collected as it could be reprocessed.

The MP has now updated the bill for the next parliamentary session after major French supermarkets signed a voluntary commitment to send food to charity, with firm legislation in France being proposed.

Public backing in the UK for food waste laws was shown when an online petition addressed to David Cameron calling on supermarkets to donate unsold food to charities received more than 115,000 signatures within a week of being launched in May.

McCarthy said: “I strongly believe that the next few months presents one of the best opportunities we’ve had in years to press the Government to adopt vital legislative measures on food waste.”

In June, resources minister Rory Stewart called for greater transparency from retailers about how much food waste they produce in response to a debate initiated by McCarthy.

Retailers questioned the need for legislation.

Andrew Opie, Director of Food and Sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said: “We believe that the bill distracts from the bigger targets of food waste reduction. Thanks to long-term collaboration between retailers, suppliers and government, direct government intervention is unnecessary.

“The number one priority for every British supermarket is to keep food surplus and food waste to an absolute minimum, even though retail accounts for just one per cent of the fifteen million tonnes of food waste thrown away in the UK every year.

“This makes both environmental and business sense. WRAP has estimated that there has been a 10% reduction in food and drink waste by grocery retailers and manufacturers between 2007 and 2012 and this looks set to increase.

“However, where supermarkets do have useable excess stock they work closely with food re-distribution charities across the UK such as FareShare and Community Shop, to ensure as much of that food as possible goes to the people who are most in need of it. All of this positive collaboration takes place on a purely voluntary basis.”

But the bill has received support by a cross-party group of MPs, including Zac Goldsmith from the Conservatives, Caroline Lucas from the Green Party, and Margaret Ferrier from the SNP.

Lucas said: “I welcome the bill as a way of addressing the environmental and social consequences of the way we produce, consume and dispose of food. It’s time we had a national strategy to tackle the huge amount of food waste in Britain.”

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