Every year EU citizens waste an estimated 88 million tonnes of food, a number which is expected to rise to approximately 126 million tonnes by 2020 if no immediate action is taken.
Figures show that 70% of food waste is generated in the household, food service and retail sectors, while the production and processing sectors contribute the remaining 30%.
In 2015, the EU set a 2030 target to cut food waste by 50%. It has also created a new platform on food loss and waste to better coordinate the situation with the member states.
But what are the institutions doing with their own food waste?
Anyone familiar with EU events in Brussels will have seen the endless streams of canapes (and prosecco) that flow from the institutions’ kitchens. The food is so copious in fact, that many a lobbyist, journalist and intern has been heard to boast of surviving entirely on EU hospitality for days at a time.
And what about the institutions’ canteens? Like any large-scale caterers they have to prepare enormous amounts of food and hope that someone will turn up to eat it.
But we do not know where the unconsumed food ends up. What is the waste strategy?
S&D group MEP Daciana Sârbu recently asked the Commission about it. In particular, she wondered whether the food from the European Parliament, Commission and EU Council canteens is donated to charitable associations in Brussels.
In the EU capital alone there were 2,500 homeless people in 2015. There is also a food bank in the city, which cooperates closely with the food industry.
We talked to people working in the EU institutions’ canteens. They said they could not even take food home with them due to “food safety reasons”, let alone donate it to a third party. The reason: most of the ingredients they use must be consumed on the day.
With winter just around the corner and thousands of people living in Brussels’ parks and streets, it’s hard to believe the EU cannot find anyone to take this excess food off their hands.
We look forward to hearing what the institutions are doing about it.
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