Ireland

Minister calls for restaurant seconds to be offered for free to cut food waste

Asked if he wants to be Ireland’s EU Commissioner nominee, Charlie McConalogue said: ‘I have more than enough on my plate.’

Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue speaking to the media during the National Ploughing Championships at Ratheniska, Co Laois. Picture date: Tuesday September 19, 2023.
Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue speaking to the media during the National Ploughing Championships at Ratheniska, Co Laois. Picture date: Tuesday September 19, 2023. (Niall Carson/PA)

Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue has suggested restaurants should offer seconds for free in order to cut food waste.

He said it is “purely common sense” for businesses to offer seconds rather than put large portions on customers’ plates.

The Donegal TD was expanding on comments he made during an interview with the Irish Examiner, when he said food services should reduce the portions on customers’ plates to cut down on the amount of food wasted.

Speaking on Monday, Mr McConalogue said he did not see “anything controversial” in what he said.

He said 30% of food in Ireland goes to waste and businesses and households have to “work to see what we can do to eliminate that”.

“The simple point I made, which is purely common sense in my view, is that rather than put too much on the plate, it will make sense to go and do seconds,” he told RTE’s Drivetime programme.

He added: “I never suggested that there should be a charge for seconds.

“In my experience, it’s mixed in relation to food service. In terms of restaurants, sometimes you may be asking for more and there mightn’t be enough on the plate, but certainly, in many cases, there can be more on a plate as well.”

He said “the significant food waste” by food services and Irish households needs to be addressed.

“I very much welcome the debate we’ve seen the last two or three days in relation to food waste, because it’s by discussing this we can bring attention to the fact that 30% of the foods that our farmers, our fishers and our food companies produce is put in the bin.”

He said a lot of food waste is produced by Irish households, with each household on average losing about 700 euros a year due to food waste.

Statistics by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicate that Irish households threw away an estimated 221,000 tonnes of food in 2021.

The EPA estimated that this was worth 29% of Ireland’s total (753,000 tonnes), with the food and beverage manufacturing and processing sector accounting for 29%, and restaurants and food services accounting for 25%.

Food waste accounted for 16% of all household waste in 2021, costing the average Irish household about 60 euro per month or 700 euro a year, according to the EPA.

A report published in 2019 found that more than 66% of food waste from the food services sector is avoidable, meaning the food is edible.

It found that hotels have the highest level of food waste and that 11% of wasted food is vegetables. The annual cost of food waste to this sector is estimated to be more than 300 million euro.

Asked if he wants to be Ireland’s EU Commissioner nominee, Mr McConalogue said: “Well, listen, I have more than enough on my plate, as you can see.”