Urgent action is needed to target the 90 million tonnes of food that is wasted in the EU every year, a new report from the House of Lords EU Committee has warned.
The report condemned the EU's approach to dealing with food waste as "fragmented and untargeted" and called for the new European Commission - to be established in November â' to enact a five-year strategy for food waste prevention within its first six months.
It added that the amount of food wasted by industrialised nations had reached an estimated 222 million tonnes a year â' the equivalent of nearly the entire level of net food production of sub-Saharan Africa.
Retailers should take more responsibility for limiting food waste from both consumers and producers, the report said, such as being more aware of the correct quantities to order, to avoid situations in which already-grown or sourced produce ends up unsold or left unharvested.
Solutions suggested include encouraging retailers to redistribute unsold food for human and animal consumption - where safe to do so â' rather than recycle it via anaerobic digestion; donating safe unsold products to food banks and reducing the amount sent to compost.
The report also recommended the introduction of tax breaks for companies satisfying these requirements, and urged a rethinking of the issue, from a "waste hierarchy" policy towards a "food use hierarchy".
It also said that the Government should continue to work with its sustainability body WRAP, and ensure that any budget cuts do not undermine food waste efforts.
It also welcomed the recent review of the practicalities of feeding food waste to animals, stressing the importance of gathering scientific evidence on the safety of the issue.
The report comes as food waste stays high on the agenda for the hospitality industry. In recent months, anaerobic digestion has been suggested by some as a strong solution to the problem, while high-profile figures such as Wahaca founder Thomasina Miers have campaigned to bring back feeding treated waste to animals such as pigs.
Baroness Scott of Needham Market, chairman of the Committee, said: "We were shocked at the extent of food waste in the EU. Especially given the current economic challenges the EU faces, it is an absolutely shocking waste of resources.
"Some efforts are already being made, which is very positive, but much more can be done, and so we are calling on the EU, the Government, businesses and consumers to make sure that it is."