New EU rules look to boost surplus food to feed processing sector

By Jane Byrne contact

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/vladm
© GettyImages/vladm
The European Commission has published guidance aimed at facilitating public and private understanding of the EU legal framework for the conversion of former foodstuffs into feed.

The move is part of the EU executive’s circular economy strategy; the publication plays into its ambition to reduce food waste.

The European Former Foodstuff Processors Association (EFFPA), the trade group for businesses that turn former foodstuffs into feed, said the Commission's publication​ increases the legal certainty for the sector while ensuring the integrity and safety of the EU food and feed chain.

EFFPA president, Paul Featherstone, told FeedNavigator:

“It is a brilliant document. It teases out many of the challenges that we faced across different member states. It looks at the implementation of a raft of legislation from food to food to [animal by-product] ABP to [transmissible encephalopathies]TSE regulation, and does a very clever and neat job of tiptoeing through those different scenarios. It has a chapter summary at the end of each area, clearly highlighting in italics the key points for food and feed businesses or competent authorities in members states, while setting out the overarching objectives of trying to recover more surplus food into the feed industry sector.

“Is it perfect? No. In reality, could a document trying to bridge so many different areas of legislation be perfect? No, it couldn't be. Has there had to be compromises? In EFFPA’s opinion, yes, but is the overall benefit of the document worth those compromises? Clearly, yes, or we would not have supported it through to this stage.”

Addressing barriers to recovery of surplus food as feed

He said the Commission’s publication has also "done its best"​ to address the challenges previously identified by food processing operators in terms of the issues that might hinder or even prevent them from supplying surplus food for use as feed.

In the main, those barriers were:

  • The capability of food processors to ensure compliance of food no longer intended for human consumption with feed legislation
  • Double registration of establishments as food and feed businesses leading to additional auditing
  • The lack of harmonization across members states for food processors regarding requirements on registration in relation to feed delivery.

"The document has clearly identified what is a waste and what is not a waste, and, therefore, what could potentially be an animal feed,"​ he said.

However, trying to get harmonization across 28 individual states, while looking at four different areas of legislation, is nearly asking the impossible of one document, stressed Featherstone.

“The guidance is saying to member states that we should all be singing off this hymn sheet – we should not have these problems of differing documentation and differing understanding as we cross state borders,” ​he said. “Whether member states will pick it up and run with that information, well, that is for them to decide. We hope they will implement the understanding of this guidance, and, therefore, we would have solved that problem.” 

The guidelines also allow "a slight relaxation"​ in the double registration requirement for small food businesses, but without compromising animal and public health, he continued.

“The [Commission] has clearly set out the stall that for those small foods manufactures who are struggling with double registration and, therefore, double audits, if their product clearly still fits under food registration, and they move it as food to a former foodstuff processor member, the gatekeeper role in terms of feed [legislation] then fits with the former foodstuff processor.”

“So [the Commission] has ticked the box that small food operators can move away from the double registration.”

The guidance recommends as a next step, and as a burden reducing measure, that stakeholder associations representing food, bakery and biscuit manufacturers, in collaboration with EFFPA, would develop a simplified, tailor made HACCP system for food businesses supplying surplus food as feed. 

EFFPA estimates around 3.5m tons of former foodstuffs are processed into animal feed annually in the countries where it holds membership.

Former foodstuffs used in feed in Europe are of plant origin. The materials are removed from the retail market due to unintentional or unavoidable production errors. Typically, they include broken biscuits and chocolates, surplus bread, incorrectly flavored crisps and breakfast cereals.

Their benefits in feed derived from their high-energy content in the form of sugars, oils and starch.

The EU piglet market is said to be a significant user of such feed - the sweet taste helps with weaning – and the cattle sector also benefits. The industry was valued at around €1bn in 2014. 

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