THE FOOD industry needs to start treating food waste as a resource if it is to solve Europes 90 million tonne food waste problem.
But, like first timers at Alcoholics Anonymous, everyone has to accept they have a waste problem before they can start to solve it.
These were two of the conclusions from a recent London conference on food waste, which brought together speakers and delegates from industry, NGOs, academia and government from across Europe. All agreed that a coherent plan to tackle the food waste problem must include an agreed definition, admission of responsibility, accurate measurement of waste and transparent communication of the findings and actions being taken to reduce it.
These five key messages will now feed into the ideas and proposals that the European Commission will launch next year to improve the sustainability of the food system. There are also plans to designate 2014 as European year against food waste.
To deal with the waste problem will take more than better efficieny, however it will also take a change in mindset. According to Tim Lang, professor of Food Policy at City University, a major cultural shift is required before food waste can be tackled seriously. So long as the public sees food as a cheap commodity and expect a huge range of choice, waste will just remain a symptom of a larger problem, he said.
Speaking at the conference, Lang urged governments and retailers to encourage people to consume less, but accepted that this was likely to fall on deaf ears.
This might not be the case in foodservice, though. There is a growing recognition that food waste costs money and that waste cannot continue piling up behind kitchen doors. The popularity of a new waste agreement across the sector is testament to the appetite for change.
A live Footprint Channel debate in October highlighted the role that chefs had in encouraging consumers to waste less, which would require an industry-wise change in mindset.