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Food Safety

About food waste prevention

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.

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.

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.
  • 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.

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

Report, Annexes

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.