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United Kingdom: Policy Highlights and Opportunities

Each year, approximately 13.1 million tons of all food in the United Kingdom (UK) is either lost or wasted along the supply chain. At the same time that this safe surplus food goes to waste, 8% of the UK population was moderately or severely food insecure prior to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Atlas Research: United Kingdom

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Legal Guide

Learn more about the legal frameworks relevant to food donation and how the United Kingdom's existing laws and policies support or hinder the country's progress.

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Policy Recommendations

Dive into recommendations for policymakers based on the gaps and opportunities identified in the legal guides.


Executive Summary

Read highlights of the research findings and our high-level recommendations.


Policy Highlights

United Kingdom research was published in April 2021 and was made possible with the advice and support of our on-site partners, including FareShare UK.
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Food Safety for Donations

The UK has a detailed legal framework relevant to food safety, which provides ample guidance as to the food safety rules that apply to food donation and recovery. 

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EU law applies to food distribution, including donation, UK law applies to food recovery organizations, and the UK’s Food Safety Act 1990 applies to food donation of certain food products with damaged packaging and safe handling of food by food recovery organizations.

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Date Labeling

The UK has laws that standardize and clarify date labels on products, consistent with the Codex Alimentarius and the EU’s Food Information Regulation (FIR). 

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The FIR creates a dual date labeling scheme that distinguishes between safety-based and quality-based date label language. In accordance with this distinction, agencies direct that food may not be sold or donated after the “use by” date, but the law explicitly states that food products past their “best before” date may be sold or donated.

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Government Grants & Incentives

While there is no UK-wide grant funding opportunity at the national level, the countries of the UK offer several different funding opportunities for governmental support for food recovery and donation.

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UK-wide investments in a food recovery innovation fund that helps support on-farm harvest, packaging, storage, and distribution activities, for example, may help to expand the reach of existing food donation operations.

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Policy Opportunities and Recommendations

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Liability Protection

The UK lacks comprehensive liability protections for food donors and food recovery organizations. To dispel concerns of food donors and food recovery organizations regarding potential liability for food donations, 

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the UK government should adopt legislation that establishes clear liability protection for donated food that is in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations and is donated to non-profit organizations in good faith.

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Tax Incentives

In the UK, there are currently no tax incentives for donation of food. However, there also are no specific tax barriers to donation, as most food and drink is “zero rated” 

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for the Value Added Tax (VAT) meaning not VAT is charged on such foods. In order to offset the costs businesses may incur when donating food, the UK government should offer a tax incentive for food donations made to food recovery organizations.

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Donor Requirements or Food Waste Penalties

Nationally, the UK does not have any uniform legislation that requires companies or consumers to donate excess food, nor is there a uniform ban on waste being sent to landfills. 

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This is likely due to the fact that waste policy, general, is fully devolved to regional governments, meaning that Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales manage their own waste policies.

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Mapping food donation policies around the world

The Atlas map compares food donation laws and policies in different countries and evaluates legislation across several issue areas. Use the map to see where your country stands and learn from best practices around the world.

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