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Italy serves up fresh laws to cut food waste

The UN Food and Agricultural Organisation estimates the food wasted in Europe could feed 200 million people. Photo: Ewan McDonald

Campaign to cut food waste, feed the poor gains momentum across Europe

Italy serves up fresh laws to cut food waste

Italy has passed laws to try to reduce its mountain of wasted food each year.

The regulations aim to cut one million tonnes from the estimated five million tonnes thrown away each year.

Government ministers estimate food waste costs Italy’s business and households more than €12b ($A17.6b, $NZ18.7b) a year.

It’s a global issue. The UN Food and Agricultural Organisation estimates one-third of food may be wasted worldwide, rising to 40% in Europe. “The food currently wasted in Europe could feed 200 million people,” it says.

It’s not the first time Italy has acted over hunger and food. Its highest court recently ruled stealing small amounts of food to stave off hunger was not a crime.

But until now, businesses have faced significant hurdles in trying to reduce waste. Many were concerned about breaking health and safety laws by donating food just past its sell-by date. Complex bureaucracy surrounded donating food to charity.

The new laws remove these barriers. Businesses will be able to record donations in one simple form every month. They won’t face prosecution for giving away food past its sell-by date and will pay less garbage tax the more they give away.

Farmers will be able to give away unsold produce to charities without incurring costs.

The agriculture ministry will research new ways to package foods in transit to prevent spoiling and extend shelf life, and a public information campaign to reduce food waste will be rolled out.

But it is perhaps the drive to promote “family bags” which has attracted most interest from ordinary diners. It’s what the world has until now known as the “doggy bag”.

Common around the world, they are rarely sighted in Italy. Now, after a successful pilot in the Veneto, the scheme will be rolled out nationwide.

The laws have received enthusiastic support from across the political spectrum and have been welcomed by Italian charities. An estimated 10 million of Italy’s 60 million people live in relative poverty and Giorgio Fogliani of the Pasto Buono charity, which redistributes leftover food to those in need, said the new laws could see millions of hungry mouths fed for free each day.

“If on average businesses could prove 20 meals a day through donations, we could feed seven million people daily,” Fogliani said. “At the moment we provide just 0.5 million meals a year and would like to double that figure in the near future.”

The campaign to cut food waste has been gaining momentum across Europe. Earlier this year France passed measures to stop good-quality food being thrown away, but its supermarkets still face fines if they fail to sign contracts with food donation charities. Denmark recently launched its first food waste supermarket which sells unsold food donated by supermarkets and businesses at a cut price.

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