(CORDIS) — A new EU-funded initiative aims to cut down on waste and to reduce the amount of food European industry and consumers throw out each year.
To highlight the amount of food unnecessarily wasted, a chef from one of the Netherlands’ leading catering companies recently prepared a menu using foods which had reached their best before date from a large supermarket. His menu consisted of a tomato and bell pepper soup, a green bean and potato salad, and a strawberry, kiwi and banana smoothie, which was sampled by Dutch food scientist Toine Timmermans of Wageningen University, the Netherlands.
The EU initiative, fronted by Professor Timmermans, is a project called FUSIONS, which aims for better monitoring of waste and more efficient use of resources, from field to fork.
It is estimated that around 90 million tonnes of food is wasted annually or 180 kg per capita per year in Europe. The project hopes to better standardise how we measure food waste in comparison with different countries.
This process is already happening, according to the Dutch Professor. Talking about some of the findings from his research, he says, ‘Germany had been slow off the mark, but its report card shows steady progress over the last two years. In France it is not a big issue yet. There are some local activities, but you do not see a common approach on a national level yet. UK consumers have a greater awareness of food waste thanks to the work of an organisation called WRAP, which achieved a 13% drop. Nordic countries also made some progress.’
The European Commission has called for meeting a target of 50 % reduction of food waste by 2020. ‘It is quite easy for every organisation to reduce food waste by 25% just by making changes, which could be introduced tomorrow,’ says Professor Timmermans from his experience of studying waste in the entire food supply chain.
Food and Society Professor Lynn Frewer from Newcastle University, United Kingdom, thinks the government can also do more. She says, ‘Government policy can incentivise or even enforce waste reduction and retailers need to make sure things like portion size of fresh vegetables are aligning with the increased tendency for smaller households. This is a food security issue. We need to make better use of the resources we have. It is everybody’s responsibility.’
However, it is individual consumers who may be the weakest link in the chain, not the catering professionals or supermarkets, thinks Professor Timmerman. He says, ‘While I’m confident the amount of food losses within the [food] supply chain can be reduced by 50%, I am not sure we will achieve the necessary change in the behaviour of consumers.’
But, Professor Frewer believes there are solutions and concludes, ‘Consumers can do their bit by pre-planning menus a bit better. Also people should utilise less than perfect fruits and vegetables on display. Consumers have been nudged into a preference for perfect products, but I guess they can be denudged.’