18.01.2018 |

Norway steps up efforts to cut down on food waste

Food waste
Bread in the bin (Photo: CC0)

In Norway, both the government and the food industry are stepping up efforts to reduce food waste. On January 9, the country’s largest producer, distributor and exporter of dairy products Tine announced that it would abolish the expiry date on its products in order to prevent consumers from throwing away milk and other dairy products which are still good. According to Tine, the aim is to raise awareness among consumers that “best before” does not necessarily mean that the products can not be consumed at a later date. With this step, the company will follow the example of other Norwegian companies like the dairy brand Q-Meieriene and egg producer Prior. The expiry date on milk cartons will be changed to “Best før, men ikke dårlig etter” - best before, but not bad after”. Lars Galtung, Tine’s Director for Communications and Corporate Responsibility, said that they will start with milk, sour milk, cream, juice, yogurt packs and school milk, with the aim of labeling all other products in this way in 2018.

Each year, an estimated one third of all food produced worldwide – equivalent to 1.3 billion tonnes – is thrown away by consumers and retailers, or is wasted due to poor transportation and harvesting practices. In Norway alone, 350,000 metric tonnes of perfectly edible food is thrown away annually. According to government figures, the average consumer throws out 42 kg edible food every year while food waste in the entire food chain represents 68 kg per person per year. In September 2015, the 193 Member States of the United Nations adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). One target of goal 12 is to halve per capita food waste at the retail and consumer levels by 2030 and to reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses.

But Norway decided to go a step further. On June 23rd 2017, five Ministries on behalf of the Norwegian government and twelve food industry organizations signed an agreement to halve food waste across the whole food value chain in Norway by 2030. According to Norway’s Minister of Climate and Environment, Vidar Helgesen, this reduction target is “in fact a bit more ambitious because the goal applies to the entire food value chain from primary production to consumers.” The agreement is voluntary, but binding for the contracting parties. The Norwegian environmental organisation “The Future in our Hands” (Framtiden i våre hender) acknowledges the value of the agreement but it has also been critical of it for not being specific enough in addressing the main problem areas in food waste from supermarkets. A recent report by the organisation found that less than 50% of supermarkets currently donate food to charity, while waste containers outside supermarkets are full of edible food at the end of the day. France and Italy adopted laws to cut food waste in supermarkets while Norway opted for cooperation and collaboration. “We discussed a ban on food waste but it was decided legislation wasn’t enough,” Helgesen told the British newspaper The Guardian. “It could lead to the problem being pushed down the value chain. We are collaborating with all the actors in the food industry and we are encouraging people to smell and taste their food before throwing it away. We are setting targets and how the industry gets there is up to them,” he added. (ab)

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