No plan to fine supermarkets and restaurants over food waste, says government

·2-min read
Food waste is something the government is looking to eradicate (stock photo)  (REUTERS)
Food waste is something the government is looking to eradicate (stock photo) (REUTERS)

There are no plans for the UK to follow Spain’s lead by handing out fines to restaurants and supermarkets who waste food.

Environmental groups have called on DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) to find ways to fight the climate crisis by limiting waste - but there is not a consensus that fining businesses is the way forward.

In June, the Spanish government approved a bill to cut food waste which could see all companies involved in the production and supply chain fined up to €60,000 for failing to show they had reduced waste. The government is aiming to reduce the 1,300 tonnes of wasted food every year. There will also be requirements for bars and restaurants to offer doggy bags so that customers can take home leftovers.

But the UK will not be taking similar action, DEFRA has said.

The department told the Standard that there are “no plans” for this kind of action, adding that the country is already a “global leader” in tackling food waste.

DEFRA said they were working with farms, organisations and businesses on ways of tackling waste. The Environment Act, it said, “gives the government the power to take more action in future to make producers responsible for cutting food waste if current measures are insufficient to meet our targets”.

Sustainability charity WRAP called for a “whole system approach” to tackling the “complex issue” of food waste - which the UK aims to halve by 2030 under its Courtauld Commitment.

Spokeswoman Catherine David added: “WRAP research shows that one of the main causes of food waste in the hospitality industry is large portion sizes.

“However, the sector is rising to the challenge by working with consumers to reduce the amount of food being thrown away - a key action is to measure food waste on site to understand how to do this.

“Doggy boxes provide an opportunity for consumers to continue enjoying their food at home and WRAP provides guidance to restaurants on this.”

Green Party London Assembly member Zack Polanski agreed, adding: "Food should not be going to waste, especially when people in London are increasingly relying on food banks.

"However, if fines lead to businesses charging customers more to make up losses, it will only make matters worse, but taking an incentive based approach can combat that.

"We need to make it easier for businesses to reduce food waste.

"Food is a social justice issue - as much as an environmental one. It's vital in a cost of living crisis that we both protect our environment and the most vulnerable people in our society at the same time.”

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