French councillor pushes Commission to act on food waste

Arash Derambarsh and Vytenis Andriukaitis.

Arash Derambarsh, French councillor for Courbevoie known for his campaigns against food waste, is calling for a European directive on the subject before the May 2019 elections. reports.

Derambarsh urged the Commissioner for Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis, to take action on food waste during a citizen’s dialogue held at the Paris Agricultural Show (Salon International de l’Agriculture) on Thursday (1 March).

Derambarsh was behind a 2016 law in France obliging supermarket chains to donate unsold food to charities or face a €3,750 fine. Thanks to this measure, more than ten million meals have been redistributed.

Mr Derambarsh now wants to see similar provisions written into EU law and has told Andriukaitis that he would go down in history if he brought about such legislation at the European level.

EU auditors slam Commission’s food waste policies

In a report published today (17 January), the EU Court of Auditors heavily criticised the European Commission for its failure to contribute to a resource-efficient food supply chain by effectively tackling food waste.

In February, a petition launched by the councillor on implementing the French law at the European level gathered more than a million signatures, allowing it to be examined by the Commission once it has been registered as a European citizens’ initiative.

Derambarsh asked the Commissioner to take up the requests made in the petition and to argue the case before the president of the Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, in 2018.

The Commission, for its part, “strongly encourages Mr Derambarsh to register the citizens’ initiative now that it has enough signatures”.

Commission’s poor record on food waste

In response to this request, the Commissioner tried to defend the Commission’s poor record. In 2011, the Commission committed itself to reduce food waste by 50%. However, this initiative was later left out of the Circular Economy Package.

At the request of the European Parliament, a revision clause has nevertheless, been included on the introduction of future objectives for the reduction of food waste.

Wasted opportunity: EU stalemate on food waste reduction

Food waste reduction targets are causing a stalemate in discussions on the circular economy: member states keep rejecting the parliament ambition to halve wasteful practices by 2030.

While agreeing with the councillor’s project, Andriukaitis remained vague on the Commission’s position, simply putting forward a few concrete measures and referring to European platforms that would allow an exchange on best practices in the field.

When asked whether he supported sanctions on supermarkets to limit their waste, the commissioner also expressed reservations. “You have no chance of imposing sanctions in kitchens!” he joked, referring to the fact that most food waste comes from households. “It is not enough to talk of sanctions. We need to motivate, to come up with incentives.”

EU elections in the way

Andriukaitis also voiced doubts about Derambarsh’s proposal being implemented by 2019. “If your initiative is registered in the months to come, you will have to wait until autumn to receive an answer (concerning the petition), and then we will see what direction the Commission, Parliament and Council can take,” he said.

“I don’t think this could be possible before the 2019 European elections.”

Indeed, the European elections could postpone legislative work to the start of 2020, as it will take some time to form a new Commission.

The Courbevoie councillor has met French President Emmanuel Macron and the Agriculture Minister Stéphane Travert and counts on their political support at the European level.



Following the publication of the article, the European Commission wished to react by stating that:

As part of the legislative package on circular economy, the amended Waste Framework Directive  calls on member states to take action to reduce food waste at every stage of the food supply chain, to control food waste, and to inform the Commission on progress made.

The Commission also reports that it has set up an action plan for the circular economy, which includes provisions on food waste and the creation of a platform to facilitate collaboration and exchange of good practices  (launched in October 2017).