Spain, third EU country to legislate food waste so as not to throw away 1,364 kilos of food

The Government approves this Tuesday the bill for the Prevention of Food Losses and Waste with which it seeks to drastically reduce the food that ends up in the garbage, often in good condition. Not only in the homes of citizens, but also in the different links of the production chain, which will have to develop specific prevention plans to avoid waste.

The text that will come out of Moncloa this Tuesday will thus begin its parliamentary processing, where a priori it is not outlined as a law of a markedly political nature, as is the case, for example, with the Housing Lawwhich could facilitate its approval and entry into force, scheduled for January 2023. If it goes ahead, the project promoted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will make Spain the third European country to legislate to prevent the waste of food, following in the footsteps of France and Italy.

The preliminary project was already approved by the Government, in the first round, last October. Since then, contacts have been maintained with consumers, NGOs, the 'horeca' distribution channel (hotels and restaurants) and primary producers, in forums held in Valencia, Barcelona, ​​Pamplona and Cáceres, according to the Ministry.

The background is that the problem of food waste not only entails an economic cost and resources wasted by producers, distributors and consumers; but also ethical, social and environmental. To minimize both impacts, the law aims to establish a model of good practices to drastically reduce food waste with actions throughout the entire chain, from the harvest at origin to consumption habits in homes and restaurants.

The law will establish a hierarchy to prioritize the use that should be given to food before wasting it, by companies. The first is human consumption. For this reason, producers and distributors must prioritize the donation to non-profit social entities, such as food banks, of those products in good condition that have not reached direct sale to the final consumer.

The second step in this hierarchy, for foods that are not sold but are still in optimal conditions for consumption, is their transformation into other products, such as juices or jams. And, if these two options are not possible, they will have to be used for animal feed.

Only if they are not good for people or animals, the food will have to be used as by-products for other industries; and ultimately, as waste, to obtain compost, biogas or fuel.

Apart from these different steps, all the agents of the food chain (producers, manufacturers and distribution) will have the obligation to have a loss and waste prevention plan, where the previous hierarchy of priorities must be stated, on what they are due Allocate the products they make and handle before throwing them away. At the moment, the Executive has not indicated when the companies will have to have developed this waste prevention plan.

The demand to reduce the food that ends up in the garbage is in line with the Sustainable Development Goals, the United Nations and the 2030 Agenda. Precisely when talking about the food that ends up in the container, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Luis Planas, assured in an interview with elDiario.es The FAO estimates that between 20% and 30% of world food production is thrown away. "It is an unbearable figure because there are products that are in good condition," Planas assured. "There is loss and waste in primary production, handling, distribution and consumption. The most expensive food is the one that is thrown away, because it is an environmentally, economically and morally wasted product," she stressed.

The preliminary draft also contemplates a sanctioning regime, which establishes different types of serious infractions, all of them related to the donation of food, which can be punished with fines of between 6,001 and 150,000 euros. Among the causes for which an agent of the food chain can be sanctioned is the refusal or discrimination to donate food, as well as not maintaining correct hygiene practices in the conservation and handling of products. In addition, if these punishable practices are repeated, the fines can reach up to one million euros.

These fines also reach the social initiative and non-profit entities that receive the donations. If they do not guarantee traceability through an entry and exit record of the products; or if they do not distribute them among disadvantaged people, they can be fined up to 6,000 euros.

The preliminary draft also includes that distribution companies encourage the sale of products with a preferential consumption date or an expiration date that is close. Those premises of more than 400 square meters must have linear sales of products considered ugly, imperfect or unattractive, but that are in optimal conditions for consumption. In addition, products with expired best before date must be presented to the consumer separately and clearly differentiated from the rest, with lower prices, in addition to being donated.

The text also contemplates initiatives that have to develop bars and restaurants. For example, they should offer customers the chance to take home uneaten food. They will have to inform of this option in a visible way, preferably on the letter or menu, and have, for this, reusable containers for customers.

The Ministry does not publish data on food waste throughout the food chain, but it does publish data on what households end up throwing away. The latest data correspond to 2020 of the pandemic. That year, the Spanish threw away 1,367.7 million kilos/liters of food. A figure that is practically the same (it is 0.8% higher) than the previous year.

In the 2020 confinement exercise, the number of unprocessed foods that ended up unused was reduced by 9.4%, 1,038.8 million litres/kilos. On the other hand, more cooked food was thrown away: 57.4% more than in 2019, 324.9 million liters / kilos in total.

The Ministry's analysis focuses on the fact that only a quarter of Spanish households do not waste food, although 2020 has changed trends. For example, Spanish households bought 11.2% more food products than the previous year. For this reason, the ratio between wasted volume and purchased volume was reduced from 4.7% to 4.3%. The most wasted, according to this analysis, are fruits – the apple stands out – vegetables and greens. And, in already cooked dishes, it defines a podium occupied by lentils, potato omelette and green salad. Some data that the Ministry produces through a panel of 4,000 households.

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