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Food Safety

Food waste measurement

In order to ensure that national efforts against food waste are informed by a solid evidence base and support sharing of innovation and best practice, the EU has been working on augmenting and improving the quantification of food waste levels. The revised Waste Framework Directive adopted on 30 May 2018 requires Member States to reduce food waste at each stage of the food supply chain, monitor food waste levels and report back regarding progress made. Moreover, it lays down obligations for Member States to:

  • prepare food waste prevention programmes (specific and/or as a part of general waste prevention programmes);
  • encourage food donation and other redistribution for human consumption, prioritising human use over animal feed and the reprocessing into non-food products as part of measures taken to prevent waste generation;
  • provide incentives for the application of the waste hierarchy, such as facilitation of food donation (articles 4 and 9 of the revised Waste Framework Directive).
Practical application of the waste hierarchy for food

Practical application of the waste hierarchy for food
Source: Brief on food waste in the European Union,
European Commission Joint Research Centre, 2020

The Act also:

  • introduces a ‘food waste’ definition based on the definition of food from the General Food Law;
  • requests the Commission to adopt legislation on food waste measurement by end-March 2019;
  • requests the Commission to prepare a report accompanied, if appropriate, by a proposal by end-2023 to set up an EU-wide food waste reduction target (to be met in 2030);
  • states that consumer understanding of ‘use-by’ and ‘best before’ dates should be improved in order to reduce food waste.

The Commission has been delegated to establish a common methodology to measure food waste levels in the EU, as well as a reporting format for the EU countries to inform on progress made over time. The Member States Expert group supported the Commission in preparation of the related Delegated Act that lays down the common measurement methodology and its minimum quality requirements.

The Delegated Decision establishing a common EU methodology to measure food waste was published in the Official Journal on 27 September 2019 and entered into force on 17 October 2019. The first data collection on food waste was undertaken by Member States in 2020, in view of reporting on national food waste levels by mid-2022. The EU reporting framework will help standardize reporting of food waste levels by business and contribute to global monitoring of the Sustainable Development Goal Target (12.3).

Member States data collected according to the common EU food waste measurement methodology will be reported to the EU by using a specific reporting format. Each set of data will be accompanied by a quality check report, in order to help verify the quality of the data and improve data collection in the future. The Commission Implementing Decision laying down a format and quality check report for reporting the data on the levels of food waste generated in Member States, in accordance with Directive 2008/98/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, has been adopted on 28 November 2019. The adoption of the act enables Member States to collect data on food waste amounts in 2020. The legislative act completes the implementation of all the proposed actions and related legislative proposals on food waste foreseen in the EU action plan for the Circular Economy (2015).


The EU Statistical Office (Eurostat) has developed a Questionnaire and a Guidance document to help Member State experts with their food waste measurement activities. The files can be found on Eurostat’s website, under the tab ‘Food waste and food waste prevention, 30 July’.

Although the Guidance document does not include specific measurement instructions, it lays down important information about the reporting of food waste data, such as an overview of best practices, as well as standards and guidelines for waste composition analysis.