Stores must donate unsold food

A new regulation will require large supermarkets to give food to charities

A new regulation will require supermarkets to give unsold but still consumable food to charity. The amendment to the Food Act comes into effect at the start of the new year.

Food waste is a large contributor to global warming and other environmental problems such as pollution, deforestation and water sustainability.

From the start of 2018 shops over 400 square meters will be obliged to give unsold but still safe food to charity. This includes food with deformed packaging, incorrect labeling or items labeled with a minimum shelf-life (minimální doba trvanlivosti). However, products marked with a final date that it can be consumed (spotřebujte do) cannot be donated after the expiration date.

Some supermarket chains say they are ready for mandatory delivery of food to charity. "All of our 154 businesses covered by this obligation are already involved in the process of donating food,” Tesco spokesman VVáclav Koukolíček told daily Pražský deník. The chain works with food banks that distribute the unsold food to charities that help the needy.

The issue of food loss needs to be addressed at all levels if progress will be made. “The losses come in production, warehousing, transport and, ultimately, at the consumer level," said Jiří Hrbek, head of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and the Environment of the Czech Statistical Office (ČSÚ).

Different sources estimate that between one-third to one-half of food that is produced worldwide is wasted.

Stores are not the biggest source of waste. Consumers are responsible for 53 percent of food waste, according to EU figures. Baked goods, fruits and vegetables are discarded most often. Dairy products and prepared meals are also often wasted.While the new amendment is useful, according to EU statistics, wholesale and retail stores account for just 5 percent of food waste. Young people are more likely to waste food than older people, despite younger people claiming to be more interested in concepts like sustainability. Older people who have lived through hard economic times know that food is worth something. They also have more experience with cooking, and live on tighter budgets.

The average Czech consumes 785 kilograms of food per year. But for every Czech, some 100 to 200 kilograms of food is discarded per year.

Some 57 percent of Czechs admit to wasting fruits and vegetables most often. Bread was most often wasted by 50 percent of Czech households. This was followed by dairy products at 32 percent, prepared foods at 30 percent, and meat products at 17 percent. On the other hand, pasta was the most-wasted item 3 percent of the time, eggs were at 2 percent, and beverages and sugary products both at 1 percent, according to ČSÚ figures from 2015.

Only 9 percent of people aged 18 to 24 years old say they never waste food, that figure rises steadily to 33 percent for people aged 56 to 65 years old.

Around 88 million tons of food is wasted annually in the EU, with associated costs estimated at 143 billion euros, according to Eurostat.

“Wasting food is not only an ethical and economic issue but it also depletes the environment of limited natural resources,” the EU says on its website, adding that food security is also an important issue.

The EU has several policies under its circular economy program to discourage food waste. Aside from stores donating food, the EU encourages all players in the distribution cycle to reduce waste, from farmers to hotels and restaurants. The EU has set up a list of resources including an online library to help people reduce food waste.

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