China steps up efforts to fight food waste with new laws, campaigns

CHINA – China, a country of close to 1.4 billion people, is stepping up efforts aimed at reducing food waste from farm to fork and everywhere in between.

Efforts against food waste can be traced back to last year when the country under the leadership of President Xi Jinping launched a clean plate program targeting food waste in restaurants and other food service establishments.

According to local press reports, China’s President Xi Jinping called on citizens, restaurants, and other food service businesses to reverse the “shocking and distressing” amounts of food waste in the country.

The president’s clarion call has received widespread support with food restaurants d adopting a mix of measures to control plate waste.

According to Foreign Agricultural Service of the USDA, some restaurants are now offering smaller portion sizes, provided takeaway boxes, and posted signage to discourage food waste.

“One Shanghai-based restaurant instituted a customer incentive program to reduce food waste. Some restaurants also trained waitstaff to help patrons from over-ordering,” FAS noted.

As a result of the campaign, many consumers have become generally aware of the clean plate program and seem to be consciously trying to reduce food waste when dining out or preparing meals at home.

According to FAS, boxing up leftovers-which wasn’t socially acceptable or a common practice in China- has become increasingly accepted and restaurant waitstaff ask patrons if they would like a box.

Anti-Food Waste Law

To further sustain the momentum started off by the clean plate program, the National People’s Congress (NPC) drafted and passed an Anti-Food Waste Law that went into effect on April 29, 2021.

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The law intends to institute stricter management controls to reduce food waste from farm to fork in order to strengthen food security, conserve resources, and protect the environment.

The new legislation contains several provisions aimed at curbing food waste at official activities, schools, restaurants, food processing operations, food retailers, and the larger grain and agriculture industry.

Under the new law, Food processors will be required to improve storage and handling procedures, transportation, processing conditions, and increase utilization rates.

The legislation further requires that shelf-life standards to be science-based and prominently displayed. It also requires retailers to categorize and label foods approaching the expiration date.

The government has also been mandated to improve its production to curtail incidences of food going to waste.

China’s effort come on the heels of the recently released Food Waste Index Report 2021 which noted that in China, about 17 million tonnes of food was estimated to be wasted each year, enough to feed some 30 million to 50 million people.

Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP  says, “If we want to get serious about tackling climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste, businesses, governments and citizens around the world have to do their part to reduce food waste.”

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