Food sharing: A café against food waste

Status: 03/31/2023 06:32 a.m

The Federal Council is currently working on an initiative against food waste. A café in Stuttgart shows how food can be valued more again.

By Diana Hörger, SWR Stuttgart

It’s already the 30th coffee that barista Aileen Gedrat presses out of the portafilter machine this afternoon in the food-sharing café “Raupe Immersatt” in Stuttgart. The young woman skillfully pulls a flower onto the froth of the cappuccino with the espresso.

The board of directors of the first food-sharing café in Germany stands next to his colleague and tests the new digital coffee scale. “On Sundays we probably give out around 400 hot drinks,” estimates Maximilian Kraft. Hardly anyone sits in front of the café’s glass pane when it’s cold, but around 20 adults and children make themselves comfortable at tables and on sofas, enjoy their drinks and eat croissants, rolls or donuts.

The difference to other cafés: You don’t have to pay for the food here. All food was donated – or saved, as they say here in the “caterpillar”. Today there are mainly rolls in the “fair divider” cupboard, from which everyone can help themselves here. “At the moment we are mainly getting baked goods from our volunteer food rescuers from the Foodsharing initiative. Fruit and vegetables are rather rare at the moment.” Everything that ends up here was not sold in retail or gastronomy and would otherwise have been disposed of.

Maximilian Kraft is the board member of the “Caterpillar Immersatt”.

Image: Diana Hörger/SWR

Fruit and vegetables most often end up in the trash

In German households, around 78 kilograms of food are thrown away per capita every year. The Statistical Office collected this in 2022. That is significantly more than is disposed of in restaurants or in processing. Much of it ends up in the trash even though it would still be edible. Fruit and vegetables are the most affected with 35 percent of the waste, followed by bread and baked goods with 13 percent, drinks with 12 percent and dairy products with nine percent.

The Federal Council is also concerned with food waste today. According to the template, one reason for the premature disposal of food is: the best-before date (BBD) in its existing form. While the use-by date indicates a date after which a food should be thrown away, the best-before date indicates the minimum date until which a packaged food can be stored and consumed without changing its smell, taste or colour. However, if stored correctly, food can still be consumed beyond this date.

Trade is liable

The resolution of the Federal Council now states that the destruction of foodstuffs that can be kept almost indefinitely should be prevented in future. In it he asks the government to work at EU level to ensure that other foods such as rice, salt, pasta and honey are included on the exception list for the best-before date. They would then be exempt from the obligation to state an MHD, as is already the case with fresh fruit, sugar or wine, for example. Additional, explanatory inscriptions such as “Often good for longer” should give consumers more security when eating in the future.

In Germany, it is regulated that retailers are liable if they place food on the market after it has reached its best-before date. This also applies if he gives away the food instead of selling it. Hardly any supermarket or discounter wants to take on this liability risk. The bill in the Federal Council does not provide for any changes in this regard.

Release food for social causes

The current initiative to reduce food waste comes from Rhineland-Palatinate. Prime Minister Malu Dreyer says: “Food that can be consumed without hesitation can be passed on to people in need, for example in food banks. Wasting food is unacceptable for low-income households, especially from a social point of view and in view of the high inflation.”

The federal government should regulate the release of unsold food that is still suitable for consumption for social purposes in order to avoid food losses and waste, according to the draft that is being discussed in the Bundesrat today.

In the “fair divider” cupboard of the “Rauper Immersatt” café, you will find mainly baked goods at the moment.

Image: Ever-satiated caterpillar

Consumer protection: Smelling and tasting is not enough

Vanessa Holste from the Baden-Württemberg consumer advice center doubts whether these measures will result in less food being wasted. Fruit and vegetables already do not have to be provided with a best-before date and still end up in the bin most often, she says. Rather, the best-before date is an important indicator. “Of course, many consumers can also decide by smelling and tasting what is still edible. They already have this maturity. In addition to the promise of edibility, the best-before date is also a promise of quality and therefore important information for consumers when making a purchase. “

For example, older people who can no longer fully trust their senses are dependent on the MHD. In addition, according to a study, many dishes cooked the day before are thrown away by consumers. The measures envisaged in the present application would have no effect on this either. Rather, politics should also encourage other actors in the value chain – such as retail – to reduce food waste.

Orientation towards other EU countries

If the Federal Council has its way, the operational processes in cooperation between retailers and organizations such as the food banks should also be improved. The charities should also be involved in the development of the new measures.

Existing regulations from other EU member states could also give the German government orientation. Maximilian Kraft from the Foodsharing Café in Stuttgart would welcome that. “In our world, people only think about it when there are financial consequences,” he says. In France, for example, retailers have not been allowed to dispose of food since 2016.

“Politicians make it too easy for themselves when they put the sole responsibility on the consumer,” says Kraft. He would also like a new study that gets to the bottom of food waste in Germany along the entire value chain. He thinks it makes sense that other products can also be sold without a best-before date. He thinks that would encourage more people to think about their consumption. “And of course people in Germany should show more appreciation for food again. But the planned changes to the expiry date will probably not change that.”

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