Joint Statement of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights and the Ombudsman for Future Generations on the First International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste

In their joint statement published on the first International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste, Dr. Ákos Kozma, Commissioner for Fundamental Rights and Dr. Gyula Bándi, Ombudsman for Future Generations highlight the importance of a more conscious treatment of the food produced and responsible behaviour on behalf of the producers, traders and consumers.

In December 2019, the UN General Assembly decided – in line with the recommendation of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) – to declare 29 September the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste, and to call the attention of member states, international organizations, civil society, private individuals and others concerned to the proper commemoration of this day and in particular, to the importance of taking the necessary actions.

According to the FAO survey, approximately one third of the food produced all over the world (about 1.3 billion tons) never reaches the consumers. Whereas in the developing countries, food loss is mainly generated during the processes of production and harvesting, in the developed world, thus in Hungary, too, food waste is typically accumulated at the stakeholders of the commercial chain and end-consumers (households, restaurants, hotels, catering companies, canteens, etc.). This claim is also confirmed by the Hungarian figures: according to the survey conducted by the National Food Chain Safety Office (Nébih), households are responsible for about one third of the 1.8 million tons of food waste generated annually – minimum half of which could have been avoided through a more conscious behaviour on the part of consumers.

Bearing in mind the UN Sustainable Development Goals and their implementation, the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights and the Ombudsman for Future Generations remind the public that the improvement of the distribution and donation process of food and their appropriate regulation may contribute to reducing poverty and starvation in Hungary as well. Furthermore, by decreasing the quantity of food loss and food waste, we can avoid wasting all those resources that were used during the production (including workforce, soil, water, energy, and seeds), and we can also prevent the emission of those greenhouse gases that are generated due to the production and treatment of wasted foodstuff, and the annihilation and destruction of their waste. According to the calculations of the FAO, if a single state could be held liable for this emission, that state would be the third biggest greenhouse gas emitter, right after China and the USA.

Therefore, the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights and the Ombudsman for Future Generations underline that the bulk of food waste generation can be prevented if we pay more attention to what, when and how much we buy, how we store and cool food, and what we do with the leftovers. The choice of blemished but good quality products, the creative use of ingredients and leftovers, the donation of surplus food, and the correct interpretation and application of the difference between the “best-before” and “use-by” dates on food items could lead to significant results.

Commissioner for Fundamental Rights Dr. Ákos Kozma and Ombudsman for Future Generations Dr. Gyula Bándi welcome and encourage all those Hungarian initiatives (such as the operation of the Food Bank and the Nébih’s programme called “Maradék nélkül” – “No leftovers”) that can contribute to the reduction of food waste by endorsing a responsible consumer attitude. The Office of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights takes an active part in solving the problem by publishing in the near future the Hungarian translation of the first volume of a publication series for children on this topic in the framework of a cooperation with the FAO.