How much food does European Union waste?


Would you buy a perfectly imperfect veggie?

Do you realise that millions of vegetables and fruits are thrown away every day just because they were too small or look ‘imperfect” for the European consumer? Or that restaurants throw away perfectly good food every night? Even still edible sandwiches are binned by supermarkets every evening after closing time. Have you ever asked yourself why all this tasty and fresh food is binned instead of giving to poor or homeless people?

Europe is one of the biggest food producers, and also, ironically, one of the biggest food wasters, compared to North America (one of the top food wasters) Europeans lose 88 million tons of food every year. It means that an estimated 55 million people who live in poverty in our region could be fed more than nine times over. It means we could feed the whole population of Hungary, Poland and Serbia together.

What is interesting is that Great Britain is in the top five most infamous countries for wasting food. According to a new study, the biggest food waste sector is households. One household throws away 13lbs of food weekly. A massive proportion of binned food are cereals, vegetables, fruits and dairy products, because of their short shelf life. Why do people waste such huge amounts of food?


The difference between sell by and use by

According to Eurobarometer, less than half of Europeans know the difference between “use by” and “sell by” expiration dates. The common mistake is to throw away food which has reached its sell by date. However, most of us don’t realize that the “sell by” date is actually for the supplier not the consumer. The “use” by date is generally later than the “sell by,” and is indicative of when the food is still perfectly edible.

1… 2… 3… ACTION!

In March, This is Rubbish (the British non-government organization) supported by 55 different European institutions, organized an action to stop wasting food and achieved a significant victory – European Parliament accepted to halve EU food waste by 2030.

In fact, The European Union just released guidelines for food donations to help increase access to food for the poor or homeless people. Following the tips as an aware consumer, we should plan our grocery shopping, check the dates, cook the right amount, use FiFo system (first in first out) in our personal fridges or donate food to charities.

This includes The EUs’ Platform- Food losses and Food Waste which has been working to launch a digital network to help increase collaboration on food waste. As an exemplary example for adjusting food wastage regulations, France has banned supermarkets from throwing away their excess produce, and they were the first country in the world to do so. However, a recent study showed that only 24% of excess food went to the relevant charities. While this in an improvement, it is not a perfect system yet, and it will take the participation of the EU to enforce these laws across many countries for this movement to gain real momentum.

Words: Dorota Ciolek | Subbing: Melina Zachariou

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