The redistribution and donation of food surpluses are promoted through specific fiscal and administrative incentives, at European and national level. With the dual objective of reducing food waste and providing support to sections of the population living in conditions of poverty. The ABC to follow.
1) Food donations, EU guidelines
The European Commission published in 2017 the 'EU guidelines on food donation' (1,2). The document considers the roles of donor organizations (agribusinesses, food processing, distribution, food service) and the receiving organizations, which manage the redistribution (also indirectly).
Food donations they must meet the requirements established in the EU for the production and distribution of food. With particular regard to:
– food safety (e.g. registration of all operators, self-monitoring, traceability, risk analysis and management),
– mandatory information to the consumer, on pre-packed and non-packaged foods, through labels or stickers and/or accompanying documents.
1.2) Possible exceptions
Some exceptions quality management systems can be established, on the basis of the objectives of reducing food waste and social solidarity, without ever giving up food safety requirements. It is therefore useful to contemplate these hypotheses, and their operating conditions, in organizational procedures.
It can be introduced for example the possibility of recovering whole foods in damaged packages or with printing errors, provided that their effective safety is verified and in any case guarantee the supply to end users of the information required as mandatory on the label,
The comunication of Brussels then indicates the possibility of derogating from the registration obligations of some operators partner of the receiving organizations. In cases of marginal supplies, limited locally, or activities that are limited to logistics and transport (excluding products of animal origin, as they are more vulnerable).
2) Food surpluses. The Gadda law in Italy
In Italy the Gadda law preceded the EU guidelines, in clarifying the possibility of donating food surpluses for social purposes. With tax incentives - income taxes and VAT as well as, at the discretion of the Municipalities, waste tariffs - on donations to the poor.
2.1) Hierarchy of surpluses
Donations can be performed under the following conditions:
- products labeled non-compliant with the legislation can be donated, unless the non-conformities concern the expiration date or the indication of allergens (and it is not possible to correct them, as the relative information is available and added in an appropriate manner , e.g. stickers on packaging),
– products with exceeded minimum shelf life can be donated, provided obviously in suitable conditions,
– products unfit for human consumption can be used for animal feed or the production of compost. (3)
2.2) Simplifications and guidelines
A significant simplification, with respect to the application of the requirements regarding the registration of operators, is the qualification as final consumers of public and private non-profit entities that carry out free distribution of food products (4,5).
Specific guidelines have been destined for the various fields of the food service to reduce food waste. With primary attention to the recovery of leftovers in subsequent services (Second Life Menu) and the need to network with charities, to optimize food donations. (6)
3) Reg. (EU) 2021/382. Food redistribution
The reg. EU 2021/382 – intervened in the reform of the reg. CE 852/2004 – introduces important innovations on the redistribution of food, as well as on the management of allergens and the culture of food safety. (7)
The conditions for the redistribution of food defined in reg. EU 2021/382 are essentially linked to the absence of risks to health and suitability for human consumption, the verification of which is the responsibility of the operators.
3.1) Food suitability
The safety assessment of food in view of their redistribution and donation must consider:
– minimum conservation term (bestbefore) or expiration date (use-by date). Residual durability must be sufficient to ensure safe redistribution and use by end users,
– the integrity of the packaging, 'if appropriate’,
– the adequacy of logistics and transport conditions, including applicable temperature requirements,
- the date of freezing ('if applicable') and the guarantee of traceability of products of animal origin,
– the organoleptic conditions.
4) FEAD, Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived
FEAD (Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived) was established in 2014 to promote cohesion and strengthen social inclusion, with the aim of eradicating poverty in the EU (#SDG1, End Poverty in all its forms everywhere).
The bottom provides non-financial assistance to poor people through the provision of food products (and other basic materials), as well as through activities aimed at social inclusion.
4.1) FEAD, organizations partner
The 'partner organizations' – public or non-profit – act directly or through other organizations partner. (8) Grants to them may take the following forms:
a) reimbursement of eligible costs actually incurred and paid,
b) reimbursement on the basis of unit costs,
c) public support on a flat-rate basis (<100.000 euros),
d) flat rate loans, calculated by applying a certain percentage to one or more defined cost categories.
National authorities of Member States manage these funds and disburse them to organisations partner, i.e. they directly play the role of purchaser and distributor, or make use of the organizations partner (which can be part of the FEAD Community) for this latter purpose. In compliance with the criteria of transparency, taxation and controls established at EU level.
5) Former foodstuffs, feed materials
I former foodstuffs, 'former food products', are food products (excluding cooking and catering residues) manufactured in compliance with the relevant food law and yet not intended for human consumption for various reasons (e.g. logistical problems, packaging defects). They can complement the catalog of feed materials, provided they do not present health risks. (9)
EFFPA extension, European Former Foodstuff Processors Association, promotes the recovery offormer foodstuffs' to reduce its waste, favoring its reprocessing and use in the production of animal feed. Without forgetting that the first destination of these products, where the conditions exist, is the supply to the poor. (10)
6) Provisional conclusions
The operators of the agri-food chain have at their disposal all the necessary tools, albeit onerous, to reduce food waste through the redistribution and donation of food surpluses to various entities (eg. Food Bank, RE-STORE). (10)
The enhancement of the secondary flows of the processes can in any case assume strategic importance, in a logic of circular economy and ESG, even if their fate has a solidarity function.
The measurement and reporting with technology blockchain of mass balances and fates of materials – foreseen in the research project wasteless) in Horizon 2020 – could be a useful tool for operators and others stakeholders.
Businesses and cooperatives, their partner economic and receiving organizations, authorities and consumers themselves will be able to initiate and participate in virtuous paths, based on concrete data. With a view to 'going back' the Lansink scale – paradigm of the circular economy – towards its first steps. Reduce and reuse, prioritizingupcycling, as a priority with respect to the various recycling hypotheses.
Dario Dongo and Andrea Adelmo Della Penna
Footnotes to the story
(1) Communication from the Commission. EU guidelines on food donation https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/IT/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:52017XC1025(01)&from=LV (2017/C 361/01)
(2) Dario Dongo. Food waste, CE guidelines. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade) 21.10.17
(3) Law 19.8.16, n. 166. Provisions concerning the donation and distribution of food and pharmaceutical products for the purposes of social solidarity and for the limitation of waste. Text updated to 19.5.20 on Normattiva https://www.normattiva.it/eli/id/2016/08/30/16G00179/ORIGINAL
(4) Law 27.12.13, n. 147. Provisions for the formation of the annual and multi-year state budget (2014 Stability Law)
(5) Law 25.6.03, n. 155. Regulation of the distribution of food products for the purpose of social solidarity. Text updated to 29.12.17 on Normattiva https://bit.ly/3tquJuj
(6) Ministry of Health. Guidelines aimed at managing bodies of school, company, hospital, social and community canteens, in order to prevent and reduce waste associated with the administration of food. https://www.salute.gov.it/imgs/C_17_pubblicazioni_2748_allegato.pdf
(7) Dario Dongo. EU Reg. 2021/382. Allergen management, safety culture, food redistribution. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade)... 9.3.21
(8) EU Reg. 223/2014, on the Fund for European aid to the poor. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/IT/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A02014R0223-20220414 Consolidated text at 14.4.22 on Eur-Lex
(9) See reg. UE 68/2013, concerning the catalog of feed materials. Annex, Part A, point 3. Consolidated text at 24.7.22 on Eur-Lex https://eur-lex.europa.eu/eli/reg/2013/68/oj?locale=it
(9) EFFPA (European Former Foodstuff Manufacturers Association). Former Foodstuffs within the EU Catalog of Feed Materials (EU Reg. 2017/1017) https://www.effpa.eu/what-are-former-foodstuffs/
(10) Dario Dongo. AlterBanc, agroecology and social spending in Catalonia. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 7.8.20