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Research and innovation for food losses and waste prevention and reduction through harmonised measurement and monitoring


Each year, a substantial amount of food is lost or wasted all along the food value chain, from primary production to final consumption. Food losses and waste have negative impacts on the society, the environment and the economy. They contribute to food insecurity and hinder nutrition, generate GHG emissions and create pressure on land and water, including through habitat degradation and biodiversity loss, and are responsible for great economic losses. Such negative impacts are exacerbated in times of crisis such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, when additional food losses and wastes are generated by disruptions in food supply chains.

Preventing and reducing the amount of food intended for human consumption that is eventually lost or wasted is a complex challenge. The robust and reliable measurement and monitoring of food losses and waste is key to tracking progress made over time and informing the development and implementation of effective strategies and actions.

The recent adoption of the EU Commission Decision (EU) 2019/1597 set a common method and minimum quality requirements for the uniform measurement of levels of food waste at the national level. However, since thoroughly assessing food losses at the primary production stage is difficult, time-consuming and costly, the common EU method excludes measurement of food losses at this stage. In addition to this lack of information about the levels of food losses at the primary production stage, there is also insufficient understanding of the root causes and drivers behind these losses, and this is key to developing effective strategies for preventing and reducing them.

Proposals responding to this topic should address one of the two complementary areas:

  1. Develop cost-efficient food waste-relevant data collection, integration and analyses based on a large number of varied sources (e.g. households, food services, other small business), as well as on food discarded through wastewater, in order to improve the mapping of current food waste profiles at European and national level. To this end, proposals should speed up the innovation process and develop and test new technologies and tools along the food systems – from farm to fork, on land and at sea.
  2. Develop and validate new tools and methods to measure and estimate food losses at the primary production stage, including storage of products originating from agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture. These new tools and methods should be applied and food losses at primary production stage measured across a large enough sample of diverse farms/production systems and value chains (including organic and agroecological), for a wide range of the most important commodities produced in the EU, across several years and in all Member States. This should generate robust measurement/estimation of food losses at the primary production stage for different commodities, at the Member State and EU levels, and at an aggregated level. Where relevant, measurements from Earth observation platforms may be used. To minimise data collection bias, each Member State should create a pool of trained researchers who are able to use the method and directly measure the food losses at the primary production stage. In addition to measurement, the direct and indirect drivers and root causes of food losses at primary production stage should be thoroughly investigated. Particular attention should be paid to the identification of market driven food losses at the primary production stage, to assess the potential for a reduction strategy based on marked demand shifts. Generated insights should also allow for identification of possible ways to prevent and reduce food losses at the primary production stage.

Proposals should provide recommendations for policymakers and best practice guidelines / business strategies for researchers and relevant operators across the various diverse terrestrial and aquatic food value chains.

Proposals should build on the work done by the Commission’s Joint Research Centre in support of the EU Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste and be aligned with the environmental footprint method developed by the Commission. The possible participation of the JRC in the project would consist of gathering data collected in the projects into a consistent framework for modelling food losses and waste, integrating life cycle assessment considerations in the projects, in particular in the assessment of food losses and waste prevention intervention and food innovation, helping translating results into policy relevant outputs.

Proposals should deliver on the food waste reduction and prevention targets relevant to the farm to fork strategy, across the food systems. In addition, in area A, they should also explain how they will deliver co-benefits on the four Food 2030 priorities: nutrition for sustainable healthy diets, climate and environment, circularity and resource efficiency, and innovation and empowerment of communities.

In area A, the required multi-actor approach must be implemented by conducting inter- and trans-disciplinary research and involving a wide diversity of food system actors, with special attention paid to consumers and civil society organisations.

Proposals are encouraged to build on past or ongoing EU-funded research and work together with relevant initiatives including the European Commission Platform on Food Losses and Food Waste. They should set out a clear plan on how they will work with other proposals selected under this and any other relevant topics, e.g. by participating in joint activities and workshops, or by running common communication and dissemination activities.

This topic should involve the effective contribution of SSH disciplines. Proposals should take into account and address inequalities, whether they be due to gender, race or other social categories.