Bill reducing food waste hurdles final reading

More poor people may be saved from hunger soon as the House of Representatives unanimously approved with 183 votes, House Bill 8873, seeking to reduce food waste through food donations and food waste recycling.

The proposed Food Waste Reduction Act, principally authored by Rep. Conrado Estrella III (Party-list, Abono), declares that the State recognizes each person has a right to an adequate standard of living, including sufficient, safe and nutritious food.

The State upholds the policy to attain food security, end hunger, and promote the efficient use of the country's food resources. The considerable number of people going hungry daily is a breach of a human right that this Act intends to correct, and the massive amount of food wastage produced presents an opportunity for the State to address hunger and improve the quality of life of the underprivileged.

The State shall adopt a system to promote, facilitate and ensure the reduction of food waste through redistribution and recycling. The State shall likewise implement measures to make it mandatory to donate edible food surplus for charitable purposes.

The bill refers to edible food surplus as excess food or surplus food in the retail and consumption stages, determined to be fit for consumption based on standards set by the National Nutrition Council (NNC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Establishments covered by the Act are 1) food manufacturers, despite any restriction imposed by any existing law and regulation on them. Any donation made by such manufacturers shall constitute an exception to the applicability of restrictions under existing laws and regulations; 2) food establishments (restaurants, cafes, diners, fast food chains or hotels); supermarkets with at least 500 square meters of selling space; and 4) culinary schools which offer culinary, baking and pastry courses with at least 50 students.

Determination of food insecures shall be made by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), in coordination with the local government units (LGUs). Food insecures refer to persons or groups of persons who have no means and/or have difficulty producing or purchasing food.

The NNC, in close coordination with the DSWD, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Health (DOH), Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Department of Agriculture (DA),Food and Drug Administration (FDA), other concerned agencies and local government units (LGUs), shall undertake a National Food Surplus Campaign to raise awareness on the impact of food surplus and strategies to reduce wasted food starting at the household level. The campaign shall also promote the food surplus reduction hierarchy and recommend means of reducing individual food waste.

To educate the younger generation, the DepEd shall be mandated to ensure that the prescribed curriculum includes informative materials on the following: a) current global and national food waste situation; b) ways to minimize food surplus; c) national and local food surplus prevention programs; d) food recovery; and e) pertinent provisions of this Act.

Meanwhile, the following steps shall be followed in edible food surplus distribution: 1) establishment owners shall segregate their edible and inedible food surplus; 2) to facilitate distribution, food manufacturers may opt to perform the segregation of their products at the supermarkets that set their products; 3) before a donation is made, a duly accredited health inspector of the local government unit will check if the edible food surplus is fit for consumption based on the standards set by the NNC and FDA; 4) upon certifying that the edible food surplus is fit for consumption, the edible food surplus shall be donated to accredited food banks, as determined by the DSWD; and 5) food banks, in coordination with the DSWD and LGUs shall distribute the edible food surplus to the food insecure.

Food-related establishments shall submit to the DSWD and DENR their respective reports containing data on the amount of their edible and inedible food surplus, organized according to the manner of disposal, including donation, composting, or discarding. They shall also enter into a contract with food banks to redistribute edible food surplus to the food insecures, and ensure the food surplus are in good condition upon arrival at the food banks.

The DSWD, as the overall coordinating agency between food businesses and food banks, shall provide guidelines and standards for the collection, storage, and distribution of edible food donated to food banks.

The LGUs shall initiate waste segregation efforts per household through local campaign. They shall also submit to the DENR their report containing data on the amount of edible food surplus that can be recycled as raw materials for fertilizer or compost.

The bill prohibits the reselling of donated edible and inedible food surplus. The penalty of prision mayor shall be meted on anyone caught reselling these food surplus.

Moreover, a fine amounting to P500,000 shall be imposed on any individual, private or public entity, who makes edible food surplus unfit for consumption. The same penalty shall apply to private or public persons/entities who prevent the redirection of edible food surplus to food banks or inedible food surplus to waste management and recycling enterprises. The fines shall be: first time offenders, P1 million; second-time offenders, P1.5 million; third-time offenders, P2 million; fourth-time offenders, P3 million; and fifth-time offenders, P5 millon.

Within 60 days from the effectivity of the Act, the NNC, in coordination with the DSWD, DILG, DENR, DOST, DepEd and DOH, shall promulgate the necessary rules and regulations for the effective implementation of the Act. | Rowena B. Bundang

Source: House of Representatives