Prevention of food losses in Flanders

Flanders loves its food culture and attaches great importance to the way food is produced, traded, prepared and consumed. Food holds a prominent place in the cultural heritage of Flanders, but it is also a huge economic asset. The Flemish agricultural and food sector is among the leading in Europe and makes a serious contribution to Flanders’ economic prosperity and export. Both in terms of sustainability and innovation the food sector is making considerable efforts.

In order to maintain its leading position among European food economies, the prevention of food losses and the high value valorization of food waste is a policy priority for Flanders Agrofood Valley. In recent years, several initiatives have been taken to map food losses, to reduce them and to valorize them as highly as possible. This was done in close collaboration with food supply chain partners and various stakeholders. A lot has already been done, but we want to move forward.

Action plan circular food loss and biomass(residual)flows 2021-2025

In the transformation to a circular economy, biomass and food (waste and residual) flows have much to offer. However, despite the fact that Flanders is one of the international leaders in the sustainable management of food loss and biomass residues, the potential of biomass residues and food (waste and residual) flows is still insufficiently exploited in the region. Moreover, many challenges still exist to close the biotic loop, in legal and policy terms as well in terms of operational, economic and environmental aspects. Food loss and biomass (waste) flows occur in all phases of the food and biomass chain and interlink with various societal areas .

Managing these flows falls within the competence of different policy areas, and many sectors and stakeholders are involved. For this reason, a comprehensive plan is needed that provides solutions and outlines actions that will ensure a well-coordinated policy.

This action plan is structured around three material cycles.

  1. Cycle 1: food (waste and residual) flows from producer to consumer, i.e. the food loss and waste flows from producer (primary sector), producer organisations (hereafter called horticultural cooperatives), food industry, distribution, catering and consumers
  2. Cycle 2: biomass (residual) flows that occur in the nature, forest and landscape management
  3. Cycle 3: wood (residual) flows from industry and households.

Declaration of commitment

The Government of Flanders and the food supply chain sectors work together in the Flemish Food Supply Chain Platform for Food Loss, a dynamic platform for coordinated action on the prevention of food losses.

In 2014 the Government of Flanders and its food supply chain partners signed the declaration of commitment ‘Together against food losses’.

Our common vision is based on 3 principles: a shared responsibility, prevention as a starting point and the food losses cascade as guiding principle, collaboration and consultation. The partners pledged to produce a Food Supply Chain Roadmap 2020 to deliver concrete actions.

Food supply chain roadmap on food loss 2020

The Food Supply Chain Roadmap On Food Loss 2020 (in Dutch) was launched in April 2015 and includes objectives and actions on sector and food chain level, with the aim to reduce food losses as much as possible and to valorize food waste as highly as possible, in line with European objectives. The long term objective is to reduce food losses in Flanders with 30% by 2025. By 2020 we want to achieve a 15% reduction in food losses. The roadmap consists of 9 action programmes with 57 actions, covering food losses from farm to fork.

  1. Supporting companies in reducing food losses
  2. Collaboration in the food supply chain
  3. Awareness-raising, inspiration and commitment at company level
  4. Training employees to promote food loss reduction
  5. Awareness-raising, inspiration and commitment at consumer level
  6. Building new business models for collaboration between regular and social economy
  7. Promoting and facilitating donation of food surpluses
  8. Investing in research
  9. Monitoring for knowledge


Monitoring food loss in Flanders

The monitoring is the result of a public-private partnership and offers an insight into the efficiency with which the agri-food chain deals with food commodities in 2015. The agri-food chain makes priority efforts to prevent food losses (prevention). In 2015, a total of around 16,400 tonnes of surplus food was given a social purpose in Flanders, which is an under-estimate.

In the Flemish agri-food chain, from harvest to consumption, an estimated 3,485,000 tonnes of food waste were released in 2015. This is the total of the (edible) food losses and the (inedible, unavoidable) residues. 92% of all food waste is valorised. The largest proportion is valorised as animal feed (43% of all food waste), the highest possible valorisation on the food waste cascade, followed by anaerobic digestion (21%) and soil (17%). The cascade index of the Flemish agri-food chain in total is 8.2 (score between 0 and 10). The Flemish agri-food chain is strong when it comes to the valorisation of food waste.

Within the food waste, a distinction can be made between the edible (food losses) and the inedible fraction (residues). Three quarters (74%) of food waste are residues. Just one quarter (26%) of food waste in 2015 is food losses. Expressed in absolute figures, this equates to 2,578,000 tonnes of residues and 907,000 tonnes of food losses across the entire chain.


Kris Roels - - Government of Flanders - Department of Agriculture and Fisheries


The impact of cosmetic quality standards on food losses in the Flemish fruit and vegetable sector

Summary report of the research project that analysed and quantified the impact of cosmetic quality standards on food losses and valorisation in the Flemish fruit and vegetable sector. To this aim, a survey was conducted among 300 horticulturists.

The research shows than 2/3 of all farmers are not able to sell part of their products in the intended sales channel, since the required cosmetic quality standards were not met. On average, a sales loss of about 10% is indicated. More than half of all misshapen fruits and vegetables, accounting for just under 120.000 tonnes of the major crops, disappears from the human food chain, which causes food losses.


Kris Roels - - Government of Flanders - Department of Agriculture and Fisheries


Food loss and consumer behaviour in Flemish households

This research was commissioned by the Flemish Department of Environment and carried out by GfK Belgium in 2016-2018. The purpose was to get an idea of how much food is thrown away by Flemish households on the one hand, and to gain insight into factors that determine food waste in households, on the other.

The study supports the policy in two ways. It provides the Flemish government and its partners with a more accurate picture of the food losses generated by Flemish households. This is important for monitoring the problem at the last link in the agri-food chain. Also, the study offers a better insight into the key drivers underlying household losses, which is indispensable for setting up well-considered future actions towards this target group.

Summary available in French and English:

pdf bestandFood loss and consumer behaviour in Flemish households.pdf (197 kB)

pdf bestandGaspillage alimentaire et comportement des ménages flamands_résumé.pdf (227 kB)

Infographics available in English:

pdf bestandFood loss Flemish households - Facts and figures.pdf (7.04 MB)

pdf bestandFood loss Flemish households - Attitude motivation and social norm.pdf (5.64 MB)

pdf bestandFood loss Flemish households - Households practises and habits.pdf (4.63 MB)

pdf bestandFood loss Flemish households - Key Determinants.pdf (1.82 MB)

Full study available in Dutch: pdf bestandVoedselverlies en Consumentengedrag bij Vlaamse huishoudens Rapport.pdf (2.04 MB).

Contact: - Government of Flanders - Department of Agriculture and Fisheries