Environmental campaigners have urged MPs to back stricter food waste targets and regulations rather than relying solely on voluntary codes.
TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and author Tristram Stuart criticised the Government’s “regressive” negotiating position on the EU circular economy (CE) package when they appeared before the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee (Efra) select committee.
Both were questioned as part of Efra’s ‘Food waste in England’ inquiry, and they praised WRAP’s voluntary Courtauld schemes for helping the UK to outperform many other countries in cutting food waste.
Fearnley-Whittingstall (pictured above) called WRAP’s research “ground-breaking”, but questioned the widely held belief that more than half of the UK’s food waste came from households, when such data was not available in other sectors such as retail, catering or manufacturing.
“We do not know how much food is being wasted in the supply chain and the field,” he said. “Transparency is the only way any other commitments, voluntary or mandatory, can be properly assessed.”
He praised Tesco and Sainsbury for voluntarily agreeing to publish their food waste statistics, and called for mandatory measures to be introduced so other retailers are made to produce similar reports.
Stuart said that even if most food was thrown away by householders, retailers encouraged over-buying by advertising two-for-one and similar offers.
Asked about a potential food waste reduction target, Stuart (pictured below) said he thought that a legally binding goal, like that in Scotland, would be good for England.
“To bind the Government to achieving a national target across the supply chain would drive innovation in the areas that are the biggest possible wins. We would stop going after minor sources of waste [just] because they are high profile and we would go after where the big levels of food waste really are.”
The European Commission’s CE package, currently under debate, includes no such binding food waste reduction target but calls on member states to “take measures” to halve food waste by 2030.
Stuart criticised the UK Government’s role in the removal of a mooted requirement for member states to reduce their food waste by 30% by 2025.
“I think an international target would be helpful. The UK had an instrumental hand in ensuring the CE package did not include mandatory targets for member states and that was a very regressive position to take.
“If we still have the opportunity to undo that damage, that would be a good thing.”