MSc Environmental Sciences – Dissertation – Alan Dowdall
Sustainability is a major issue facing society today, posing a number of challenges to our food, water, energy and human systems. Various international and regional attempts have been made to tackle these issues (UN, 2015; EC, 2015), with the aim of creating a more sustainable and circular economy which uses resources more efficiently. Food waste is one of the most pressing issues which must be dealt with, due to growing populations and increased pressure on land use (Scanlon, et al., 2017). The redistribution of surplus food has been identified as one of the most innovative and effective methods to help reduce food waste (Capodistrias, 2015), and its expansion and growth is encouraged by the EU (Vittuari, et al., 2016; Vituarri, et al., 2015). Food safety and hygiene regulations have been highlighted as a major barrier to this growth (Vituarri, et al., 2015). This study aims to assess the place of food safety regulation in European food redistribution organisations (FRO), and elicit the views of these organisations on regulations and how they should develop in the future. This will be carried out through a multilevel governance analysis, including European food safety policy review, national policy content analysis, surveys with local FRO and a case study on the operation of public fridges, including surveys and media analysis.
This study found that food safety has an important place in European food policy, outlining the general risk-based, scientific approach to food safety management in several regulatory instruments. National food safety policy channels these principles into set standards and procedures, providing more practical regulation of food businesses. National food safety authorities provide viewpoints on the importance of food safety and its place in food redistribution. Local FRO place a high level of importance on food safety and clearly understand the risks it poses. They implement these standards and procedures in a number of ways to maintain food safety and prevent public health risks. The majority of FRO surveyed in this study believed that current regulations are restrictive and too strong, and would like to see changes to education and awareness are food waste issues, as well as guidelines on the interpretation of food safety regulations in redistributive services and the creation of a standard quality system for all actors involved in redistribution.
The novel data collected in this study highlights the complexity of food waste and food safety management and the difficultly in reconciling both of their aims. Dealing with barriers such as food safety to innovative solutions like food redistribution is important to allow for their expansion and growth in accordance with proper regulations. Tackling this issue now, thorough official guidance and interpretation, allows for the optimal performance of both food redistributors and the regulations which govern them in the future.
Keywords: food safety, food sharing, food redistribution, European policy, policy analysis.