Skip main navigation

Government policies

An article outlining the actions the French, Italian and UK governments are taking to reduce food waste.
Graphic showing a hand holding a newspaper where the headline reads, 'France penalisation''
© EIT Food

Governments across Europe are making efforts to reduce food waste through prevention targets and legislation. National initiatives that have sparked action and public debate include those in France and Italy where legal measures against food waste have been adopted, and the UK’s voluntary agreement.

France

In 2016, France became the first country in the world to ban supermarkets from throwing away or destroying edible unsold food. Supermarkets are required instead, to donate it to charities and food banks. The supermarket law is part of a wider set of proposals laying out a national policy against food waste. The main features of the law are that:

(a) it clarifies the waste hierarchy in the case of food waste;

(b) it introduces fines in case business operators make safe food voluntarily inedible;

(c) it introduces the obligation for supermarkets to sign an agreement with non-profit organisations to donate food that otherwise would be wasted.

However, as expressed by the European Court of Auditors, the French law does not establish the proportion of food that must be donated. So, if the supermarket signs an agreement to donate just 1% of its unsold food, it is complying with the law.

According to France’s Ministry of Agriculture and Food, since the law came into effect, the results have been positive and the number of meals distributed to the needy has increased significantly.

The law has been criticised for increasing the involvement of charities without considering the increased strain their redistribution operations (infrastructure, transport and logistics) face as a result.

Italy

graphic showing a hand holding a newspaper where the headline reads, 'Italy food waste laws'

In 2016 Italy followed France’s example, with the so called ‘Gadda Law’. Unlike the French laws which impose the ‘obligation to donate’, the Italian law focuses on simplification and incentives to make it easier for companies and farmers to donate food. It also encourages the use of ‘doggy bags’ at restaurants so customers can take home their leftovers. By relaxing the regulations to make it easier to donate food, businesses won’t face sanctions if they give away food past its expiry date and will pay less tax the more they give away. Farmers are also able to give away unsold produce to charities without incurring costs.

The law also established a definition of food surpluses, food waste and a hierarchy for the use of food surpluses. It recognised the importance of an integrated approach that tackles food waste across the whole supply chain, established actions to increase the awareness of consumers, and set up a fund for anti-food waste and recovery projects.

UK

The UK’s Courtauld Commitment is a voluntary agreement involving all the major supermarkets and food manufacturers in the UK. It started in 2005 and by signing up to the initiative, companies agree to take action that contributes towards the commitment’s overall targets to reduce packaging and food waste. Companies also agree to report annually to non-profit organisation WRAP on their progress. We talked to WRAP, which runs the Commitment, about this voluntary agreement which is being replicated internationally.

Can you tell us briefly what Voluntary Agreements are? Who is involved in the Courtauld Commitment 2025 and how it will help to reduce food waste?

The Courtauld Commitment 2025 is the UK’s ambitious voluntary agreement that brings together organisations across the food system to make food and drink production and consumption more sustainable. At its heart is a 10-year commitment to identify priorities, develop solutions and implement changes to cut the waste – and carbon – associated with food and drink by at least one-fifth in 10 years and to reduce water stress. Delivery of C2025 puts the UK on track to achieve UN Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 – to halve food waste (and loss) by 2030.
How successful are public-private partnerships in helping to reduce food loss and waste in the UK?
WRAP’s latest data (published January 2020) shows that the strategies developed under Courtauld 2025 and delivered through wide-ranging partnerships are working.
  • Household food waste (food and inedible parts) now totals 6.6 million tonnes – down from 7.1 million tonnes in 2015.
  • Total UK food waste now measures 9.5 million tonnes (household and supply chain, 2018) down from 10 million tonnes in 2015 (and 1.7 million tonnes a year lower than in 2007).
  • Action by Courtauld 2025 signatories has helped to reduce the amount of food waste in the supply chain by 4% per capita over the period 2015 – 18.
  • Collaborative water projects in the UK and overseas have reached more than 500 suppliers.
  • There has been a 7% reduction in CO2 emitted across the food system, equivalent to 730,000 fewer cars on the road.

In the next Step, you’ll have a chance to investigate the actions your national or regional government authorities are taking to reduce food waste, and share your findings.

© EIT Food
This article is from the free online

From Waste to Value: How to Tackle Food Waste

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education