Denmark’s Social Democrats want to stop supermarkets from wasting food

Over 715,000 tonnes of food are wasted annually in Denmark, with nearly a quarter of that figure coming from retailers. That is too much, say the Social Democrats, who are prepared to legislate against wastage.

Denmark’s Social Democrats want to stop supermarkets from wasting food
File photo: Johan Gadegaard / Midtjyske Medier / Ritzau Scanpix

The Social Democrats could pass laws restricting supermarkets from throwing out food should they win next week’s general election, Ritzau reports.

The party on Wednesday presented a new plan to reduce food waste.

Should it be elected as leader of a new government in next week’s general election, the Social Democrats will enter dialogue with the food retail sector to find a target for reduction of wastage, which the industry will then be required to comply with.

If targets are not met, a Social Democrat-led government would seek to pass laws banning food waste, said Dan Jørgensen, the party’s deputy leader in parliament.

“In the first instance, we would hope that when we reach an agreement with the retail industry, they will reach that (target),” Jørgensen said.

“But if there are no results, we are prepared to legislate,” he added.

Potential laws in the area could require companies to use unsold food as biofuels, animal feed or for donation to charitable organisations, with the overall aim of preventing it from being thrown out, Jørgensen explained.

The party has so far resisted setting out any specific criteria or sanctions for companies that do not meet agreed targets.

But a number of initiatives would be put into place to reduce food waste with the targets in mind, deputy leader Jørgensen said.

Current VAT (Danish: moms) rules can result in extra expenses for stores which donate or give away food, and could be subject to change as part of the Social Democrat initiative.

But the industry has previously pointed out that EU rules make legislative changes in the area difficult.

Charities which make use of surplus food could also be boosted by the party’s plan, but no specific spending has yet been set out.

“It could well be that this area needs more resources, and we will look at that,” Jørgensen said.

A number of Danish companies already have schemes in place to reduce food waste.

These include Salling Group, which owns the Netto and Føtex chains amongst others in Denmark. The company aims to halve its food wastage by 2030.

Private households remain the biggest source of food waste in Denmark, with a 36 percent share – equivalent to 260,000 tonnes annually. Retail is the second largest contributor, at 23 percent or 163,000 tonnes.


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Power shifts in Denmark with the giving of gifts

Transfer of power between governments can be associated with antagonism, ill feeling and tension. In Denmark, it is accompanied by the exchange of gifts.

Power shifts in Denmark with the giving of gifts
Mette Frederiksen hands Lars Løkke Rasmussen his new cycling jersey. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen / Ritzau Scanpix

The quirky tradition was continued on Thursday as Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen took over from predecessor Lars Løkke Rasmussen as head of government.

Tradition in Danish politics dictates that all outgoing ministers, including the prime minister, exchange gifts with their successors on the day portfolios officially change hands.

The gifts, often referred to in Danish as drillegaver (‘teasing gifts’), are normally chosen with an element of humour in mind, while not forgetting to reference political opposition.

As the keys to the PM’s office were exchanged at Christiansborg Palace, the seat of parliament on Thursday, Rasmussen handed Frederiksen a pair of gloves and blue trousers from a set of overalls.

“I’m now handing over a Denmark in top form. And that must be looked after. I know will you do that, Mette,” Rasmussen said.

“One of the keys to achieving that is for us Danes to pull on our working gear,” he added.

In response, Frederiksen gifted Rasmussen, known for his enthusiasm for bicycle racing, a polka-dotted cycling jersey, making reference to his tendency to “break away from the pack” during the election campaign.

“I hope you will be spending a lot more time cycling in future,” Frederiksen joked as she gave her predecessor the jersey.

Also noting that she had probably not seen the last of the Liberal (Venstre) party leader in politics, the new PM had warm words of tribute for Rasmussen, who has served two separate terms as the head of Denmark’s government, from 2009-11 and 2015-19.

She thanked him for a being a decent opponent and for “everything you have done for Denmark”.

Rasmussen, who was not short of joking remarks himself, said he “had a habit of handing over the keys to a Social Democrat”.

After losing the 2011 election, he gave then-Social Democrat leader Helle Thorning-Schmidt his government’s budget repurposed as a handbag, while Thorning-Schmidt gave Rasmussen a bus ticket.

Roles were reversed in 2015, when Rasmussen, having regained power, gave Thorning-Schmidt a selfie stick and received festival tickets in return.

The Danish tradition of giving gifts while handing over power is a modern one, having gradually emerged in the 1980s and 1990s.

“Transition of power used to be very formal,” DR’s political commentator Bent Stuckert told Politiken in 2011. That is evidenced by the below video, which shows Anker Jørgensen making way for Poul Hartling in 1973.

The 2019 version, coming at the end of a long negotiation period to form government, continued Denmark’s overtly friendly approach to handing over the keys to power.

READ ALSO: Here is Denmark's new Social Democrat government