The Netherlands and Sweden have called for the European Commission to cut food waste in the bloc by potentially scrapping “best before” labels on long-life products such as canned goods, rice and dried pasta.

In a meeting of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Brussels yesterday (19 May), member states agreed to consider action to reduce the amount of food wasted by consumers in member states.

Speaking to reporters during a press conference later that day, European minister for food and rural development Athanassios Tsaftaris said that the “important issue” of the “sustainability of agricultural production and food production” was now on the Council’s agenda.

“Loss and waste… was something that was raised as a result of a proposal from Sweden and the Netherlands,” the Greek representative said. “All member states agreed that it would be useful for such an action to be undertaken. This would contribute to a reduction in waste right through the food chain.”

Tsaftaris stressed that the idea was “not to sacrifice quality and safety” and any action would “also take account of environmental and economic factors”.

“We are now faced with a major challenge to make sure there is enough food available for the very large world population. This challenge is getting increasingly difficult because of climate change and the repercussions of this on agricultural production. We should not make this challenge even more difficult by wasting the products we produce,” the minister insisted.

The council also took account of the Danish and Swedish requests to strengthen the protection of animals during transport, Tsaftaris added.

Last month, Food and Drink Europe published a declaration on the sustainability of food systems. The industry body called for a raft of measures, including increasing investment in R&D and ensuring “global competitiveness”.

Food and Drink Europe also stressed European policy should encourage “more environmentally sustainable food consumption patterns” by “strengthening public educational campaigns and providing information which is scientifically reliable, consistent, as well as understandable and not misleading”.

“Providing a healthy and balanced diet, in an equitable and sustainable manner, to a growing world population will be one of the major development challenges of the next decade,” Food Drink Europe suggested.

Sweden and the Netherlands argued yesterday that “best before” dates on long life products are “misleading” and contribute to food waste in the region.

EU legislation on labelling currently requires all food to carry a best-before date, regardless of whether they are shelf-stable or short-life products.