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Practices of canteens made available by the institutions and certain bodies in relation to unconsumed food

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  • Case: OI/14/2011/BEH
    Opened on 31 Oct 2011 - Decision on 20 Dec 2012, 20 Dec 2012, 20 Dec 2012, 20 Dec 2012, 20 Dec 2012, 20 Dec 2012, 20 Dec 2012, 20 Dec 2012
  • Institution(s) concerned: European Parliament
  • Field(s) of law: General, financial and institutional matters
  • Types of maladministration alleged – (i) breach of, or (ii) breach of duties relating to: Proportionality [Article 6 ECGAB]
  • Subject matter(s): Institutional and policy matters
A canteen service
Copyright: Stocklib ©

Summary of the decision on own-initiative inquiry OI/14/2011/BEH concerning the institutions and bodies of the EU mentioned in Article 13 of the EU Treaty, save for the European Council

Many institutions, bodies, offices, and agencies of the EU have canteens, which primarily cater for their staff. In view of the apparent divergence in the manner in which these canteens dispose of unconsumed food, the Ombudsman, in October 2011, opened an own-initiative inquiry into the matter with a view to identifying best practices.

In their opinions, all institutions stated that they make canteens available to their staff, and usually to other authorised persons. As a rule, these are managed by contractors. Most institutions indicated that they estimated in advance the quantity of food to be prepared for a given period. The institutions also referred to ways of making unconsumed food available to third parties or of selling foodstuffs as organic waste to private companies for use as fertilizer or to produce biomass. As for measures to make unconsumed food available to charities, a number of institutions referred to restrictions stemming from national food safety legislation.

The Ombudsman applauded the institutions' efforts to anticipate as much as possible demand in food for specific periods of time. He considered that preference should be given, to the greatest extent possible, to resource-efficient uses and, in particular, to using unconsumed food for human consumption. This objective could, for instance, be realised through donations to charities, or by re-using food which has not been consumed within the canteens themselves. Using foodstuffs for fertilizers or biomass production, while clearly avoiding unnecessary waste, should only be considered if there are no other practicable and realistic possibilities.

The Ombudsman concluded that the exploration of possible ways to deal with unconsumed food in a way that is both economical and guided by ethical considerations would be a concrete sign of the European Union's care for needy people. He welcomed the initiatives already put in practice by the institutions concerned in order to prevent food waste. He moreover encouraged them to examine seriously the issue of making available to third parties food which, due to a surplus of supply, remains unconsumed in their canteens. Finally, he noted that the European Parliament had, in the meantime, taken up the matter and issued a relevant recommendation.

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