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Reducing food waste

A lot of edible food is thrown away in the Nordic countries, causing significant environmental impact that could have been avoided. The aim of the project is to contribute to reduced food waste while securing food safety.

Three projects have been initiated on food waste as part of the Prime Ministers’ green growth initiative.

  • The primary production project
  • The date label project
  • Food redistribution and food banks

The objectives of the three projects have been, respectively, to generate knowledge about food waste in primary production, to help producers to date-label food in a way that minimises food waste, and to promote safe and effective distribution of surplus food to people in need.


The primary production project has resulted in the formulation of a definition for food waste and production losses in primary production. Various methods for data collection in line with this definition have been tested for selected products and an estimate of the total amount of losses in primary production in the Nordic countries has been done. The results from the project can be used to help identify measures to reduce losses in primary production.

Results from the date label project show that interpretation of date labelling legislation differs between Nordic countries. A correlation between shelf life and food waste was observed which stresses the need for measures to extend shelf life by food industry and retail. Proposals for harmonization measures will be disseminated as a result of the project, as well as information for a better understanding of the difference between “best before” and “use by” and of durability after opening of food package.

The project on food redistribution involved food banks, NGOs, businesses and authorities. Key recommendations are aimed at redistribution actors, donors and authorities that are likely to help increase food redistribution while ensuring a high food safety standard. Recommendations include increased collaboration between all relevant stakeholders, the ability of national and regional food banks to act as systems operators for the redistribution system, as well as developing sustainable funding schemes that will allow redistribution to fulfil its potential as a tool for food waste reduction, enhanced social security and sustainable business models.

By continuing the Nordic collaboration on food waste, it is expected that the region can take a leading role and present a strong common vision in the EU. The results of the projects are already part of the European collaboration, and the project group has presented Nordic experiences, models and tools to avoid food waste at the EU level.


Preventing food waste - better use of resources (policy brief)

Food losses and waste in primary production: Data collection in the Nordic countries  
Food losses and waste in primary production (technical report)
Interview and questionnaire guide: Quantification of food losses and waste in primary production

Food waste and date labelling: Issues affecting the durability
Matsvinn och datummärkning: Faktorer som påverkar kylvarors hållbarhet

Food waste and date labelling: Factors determining the durability of refrigerated foods (short version)

Food Redistribution in the Nordic Region, Phase II: Identification of best practice models for enhanced food redistribution

Food Redistribution in the Nordic Region - Experiences and results from a pilot study

Date labelling in the Nordic countries: Practice of legislation

Read also the articles "Multiple benefits of reducing food waste in the Nordic region" and "Nordic countries play their part in reducing global food waste" from the web magazine "Green Growth the Nordic Way" at

Background on Aim and outcome

There are 3 subprojects in the overall food waste initiative:

Definitions and methods in primary production

The project is:

  • Suggesting definitions and system boundaries for measuring food waste and losses in primary production, using the work done in the FUSIONS project and at the FAO as a foundation
  • Estimating Nordic volumes of waste and losses in primary production in addition to testing various methods for collecting data for carrots, onions, wheat, peas and farmed fish

Date labelling

The overall aim of the project is to optimise food labelling to minimise food waste in a Nordic perspective. Different aspects regarding food waste and durability have been examined:    

  • how date labels “use-by” or “best before” are applied by industry
  • guidance in how to best apply the two types of date labelling and consumer understanding of the label
  • mapping data for food waste linked to date labelling
  • durability of opened packages

These issues have been examined by interviews with manufacturers and store managers, case studies and review of relevant literature. A final seminar will be held on the 10th of March 2016..

Food banks and food redistribution

Large amounts of food from processing and retail shops in Nordic countries are wasted. Some of it is donated to and used by organisations through redistribution to people in need.

Food banks have been established in three Nordic countries, and the project aims to describe experiences and capacity of all types of food redistribution in Nordic countries.

Phase II of the food redistribution project aims to develop a common platform for enhanced food redistribution in order to reduce food waste in the Nordic countries. The platform considers both direct and indirect redistribution, including how the two systems can be integrated.  The project will result in a “best practices” report focusing on:

  • clear legal guidelines for food safety requirements
  • how to organise direct and indirect food redistribution 
  • systems for quality assurance  
  • systems for registration and tracing of food

Time line

August 2013 – 2017


Aarhus University Denmark
Agrifood Research Finland MTT
Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira
IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute
Danish Veterinary and Food Administration
Danish AgriFish Agency
Norwegian Food Safety Authority
Norwegian Institute of Food, Fisheries and Aquaculture Research Nofima
Ostfold Research Norway
PlanMiljø Denmark
Swedish Board of Agriculture
Swedish Environmental Protection Agency
Swedish National Food Agency
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences SLU.

This project is part of the overall initiative “The Nordic Region – leading in green growth”, the Nordic Prime Ministers’ shared green growth initiative under the auspices of the Nordic Council of Ministers.

Councils of Ministers involved

The following Councils of Ministers are involved in the project on food waste: Fisheries and Aquaculture, Agriculture, Food and Forestry, along with Environment, Trade, Energy

Read more in the web magazine “Green Growth the Nordic Way” or download a fact sheet on the project (requires an issuu account).


Ingela Dahlin, SLV, +46 18 17 57 09