THE EXPERT - An interview with Ms Maria Chiara Gadda

What is the goal of Law No 166/2016?

Within the whole supply chain food products which become surplus food for several reasons are likely to be sent to  landfill if an efficient donation and recovery sustem is not encouraged and put in place. We are talking about good and safe food, perfectly edible surplus food which is intended for citizens who unfortunately live in asituation of poverty. Law No 166/2016 also aims to go one step forward simplifying the donation of food products as bread, fresh and cooked food which has been very complex to manage until now.


Why did you decide to get involved for the approval of this new law?

For me this experience has been extremely enriching! I had the chance to meet many volunteers, and non-profit organizations and businesses that have been donating surplus food for years despite the legal uncertainty. This has allowed me to widen my gaze.

I believe that the task of policy-makers consists in observing, understanding how society is changing, and providing some answers. This law is a measure to counter poverty and the action of donating something is a modern way of rethinking the social welfare, corporate social responsibility and subsidiarity.


What positive and negative factors have you addressed in this legislative process?

The purpose of the law is evident; the importance of not wasting is evident to everyone. However, we had to deal with various elements of complexity: the different degree of recoverability of surplus food along the food supply chain, the different types of donors and non-profit organizations, European and national law individuals and voluntary associations, national and EU regulations, to mention just a few examples. The legislative process was dealt with in depth and the discussion was heated but we obtained the adoption by a very large majority in the end.


When drafting your legislative proposal did you take inspiration from other European initiatives or laws of EU member states or other countries?

Italy is a virtuous country as regards the recovery and redistribution of surplus food for charitable purposes. For instance, many interesting projects have been developed thanks to Law No 155/2003, known as the "Good Samaritan Law”. For this reason we preferred an incentive system rather than a mandatory system as the one approved in France. Law No 166/2016, which entered into force on 14 September 14, defines a comprehensive and harmonized regulatory framework which includes European and national legislation relating to fiscal incentives, civil liability, and hygiene and food safety.


What are the most important issues addressed by the law?

For the first time in our legal system we have a definition of "waste" and "surplus." In addition the law tries to foster food donation by removing unnecessary bureaucracy, for instance the prior notifications used in the past. It also clarify a few aspects which have created confusion over the years.

Law No 166/2016 draws our attention to the difference between the “use by” and “best before” dates, and clarifies that food products may be donated even if their “best before” date has passed. It also provides other useful tools such as the opportunity to donate confiscated food products, the “family bag”, the application by local authorities of a reduction coefficient on waste tax in order to further encourage businesses to donate surplus food, and the opportunity for volunteers to harvest agricultural products which are physically on the fields. A lot of irons in the fire!


How do you think consumers can have the biggest impact on the reduction of food and pharmaceutical waste?

A law, just one law, is not enough. We all have to feel involved. As citizens we play a very important role because a big amount of waste takes place in our homes and therefore prevention and education are crucial. Our way to buy and consume food determins what is going on around us. Pope Francis’ words in the Encyclical Letter Laudato sì can provide a signpost when he reminds us that the modification of the relationship between man and things for useful purposes can lead to waste. The awareness that food products have a life, a purpose and an end, and the knowledge that their value is not only found in their price but it includes the work and the dignity of the man who produced them, and the use of natural resources, will lead us to waste less food.


In your opinion, can this law represent a model to be shared in the EU Member States?

When we talk about this issue, copying or imitating is a virtue. I believe that the Italian model can be replicated. The Circular Economy Package under discussion in the European Parliament may be an additional incentive to boost any initiative in the Member States and to give thought to the concept of circular economy itself. Not only an efficient and effective management of waste, but a model combining the social, environmental and economic aspects of this issue.


What about next steps?

This issue has incorrectly remained on the sidelines of public debate for years. Together with Expo Milan 2015, the law takes credit for sheding some light on an important social phenomenon that engages both businesses and non-profit organizations. I simply note an increasing attention and a greater sensitivity. Moreover, innovative and virtuous initiatives are taking steps to tackle this issue in all Italian regions.

Meanwhile, it is important to correctly explain the content of the law thanks to the collaboration of businesses, non-profit organizations, and local authorities and institutions in order to take full advantage of it, without repeating the errors of the past.


Anything else you would like to add?

Thank you. There is plenty of people who supported this initiative by providing expertise and enthusiasm. This law is only a small piece of a bigger puzzle. However, it entered into force just a few weeks ago and we already begin to taste the fruits, for instance in terms of new projects. It has given a significant boost to a wider debate on the critical issues of our social and economic model. The future is now, it is in our hands, and it depends on the way we decide to go together.