The primary focus of food waste prevention should be to act directly at source by limiting the generation of surplus food at each stage in the food supply chain (i.e. production, processing, distribution and consumption). If this cannot be achieved, the best destination for food surplus, which ensures the highest value use of edible food resources in line with the waste hierarchy, is to redistribute this food for human consumption where safe to do so.
EU Food donation guidelines
As part of the Circular Economy Action Plan, the Commission has adopted EU food donation guidelines in order to facilitate the recovery and redistribution of safe, edible food to those in need. Developed in consultation with the EU Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste, the EU food donation guidelines seek to:
- facilitate compliance of providers and recipients of surplus food with relevant requirements laid down in the EU regulatory framework (e.g. food safety, food hygiene, traceability, liability, VAT, etc.);
- promote common interpretation by regulatory authorities in the EU Member States of EU rules applying to the redistribution of surplus food.
Adopted in 2017, the EU food donation guidelines do not reflect the latest developments and amendments made to EU food hygiene rules in order to facilitate safe food redistribution:
- Commission Regulation (EU) 2021/382 of 3 March 2021 amending the Annexes to Regulation (EC) No 852/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the hygiene of foodstuffs as regards food allergen management, redistribution of food and food safety culture
- Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2021/1374 of 12 April 2021 amending Annex III to Regulation (EC) No 853/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council on specific hygiene requirements for food of animal origin.
In particular, food business operators carrying out a retail activity may - subject to certain conditions - freeze meat for the purpose of food donation. Section 5 ‘Hygiene Regulations and Redistribution of Surplus Food’ of the EU food donation guidelines (and related Annex 2) should therefore be considered in the light of these new developments. For further information, please see web page below.
Guidance on simpler but safe hygiene rules for small retailers, also when donating food
In June 2020, the Commission has published guidance on food safety management systems for food retail activities, including food donations, aiming to support food business operators, such as butchers, bakeries, groceries and ice-cream shops, including food banks and other charities, in their implementation of EU rules to ensure the safe production of food sold to the consumer. Building on the EU food donation guidelines, the guidance further facilitates food donation by making recommendations on some simple additional good hygiene practices that contribute to ensuring the safe redistribution of surplus food.
Commission Notice providing guidance on food safety management systems for food retail activities, including food donations, available in all EU languages
Attention: Due to the adoption of Regulation (EU) 2021/1374, the guidance on freezing at retail in Section 5.4 is outdated. For the purpose of food donation, freezing of meat is allowed at any retail establishment under the conditions laid down in that Regulation.
The Commission Notice was based on two opinions of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) making recommendations on hazard analysis approaches for retail establishments:
- Hazard analysis approaches for certain small retail establishments in view of the application of their food safety management systems (EFSA Journal 2017;15(2):4697, 62 pp.)
- Hazard analysis approaches for certain small retail establishments and food donation (EFSA Journal 2018;16(11):5432, 64 pp)
Amendments to EU food hygiene rules to facilitate food donation
The Commission has proposed to amend EU food hygiene rules in order to lay down certain requirements to promote and facilitate food donation, whilst guaranteeing its safety for consumers. These amendments concern, in particular:
- in Annex II to Regulation (EC) No 852/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the hygiene of foodstuffs, a new chapter on food redistribution that addresses how the "use by" and "best before" dates shall be applied in the context of food redistribution while not jeopardising food safety and which aspects shall be taken into account when assessing food safety.
Commission Regulation 2021/382 amending the Annexes to Regulation No 852/2004, published on 4 March 2021
- in Annex III to Regulation (EC) No 853/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council on specific hygiene requirements for food of animal origin, freezing of meat at retail would be authorised under certain conditions, aiming to facilitate the safe redistribution of meat products by food banks and other charities.
Commission Delegated Regulation 2021/1374 amending Annex III to Regulation No 853/2004, published on 20 August 2021
EU Pilot Project: Food redistribution in the EU
The Commission has launched a pilot project for the period of 2018-2020 to further assess food donation practices in the Member States and promote the dissemination and uptake of the EU food donation guidelines.
The project mapped regulatory and policy frameworks of Member States put in place in relation to food redistribution. The relevant report was published on 25 June 2020:
Food redistribution in the EU:
Mapping and analysis of existing regulatory and policy measures impacting food redistribution from EU Member States
In the context of the pilot project, a document has been prepared to illustrate how Member States implement EU rules to facilitate food donation in practice. The document follows the structure of the EU guidelines on food donation, in order to facilitate information sharing according to specific areas of legislation (e.g. food hygiene, food information to consumers etc.). It addresses areas where EU legislation prevails (e.g. on food hygiene, labelling, VAT etc.), as well as those governed by national rules (e.g. liability, other taxation). The document has been prepared based on contributions received from members of the EU Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste.
- Food donation in the EU – general information
- Food information and redistribution
- Food safety and hygienic rules
- Financial rules on food donation
Note:These materials do not reflect the latest developments and amendments made to EU food hygiene rules in order to facilitate safe food redistribution: Commission Regulation (EU) 2021/382 and Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2021/1374. In particular, food business operators carrying out a retail activity may - subject to certain conditions - freeze meat for the purpose of food donation.