Regulating Food Waste

48 Texas Environmental Law Journal 239 (2018)

U of Houston Law Center No. 2017-A-18

38 Pages Posted: 4 Apr 2017 Last revised: 12 Sep 2019

See all articles by Sarah Morath

Sarah Morath

Wake Forest University - School of Law; University of Houston Law Center

Date Written: April 3, 2017


Food waste has become a topic of national and international concern, and an assortment of responses have developed. Identifying the formal and informal tools available to regulate food waste is a critical step in devising adequate solutions. Using the taxonomy developed by Lawrence Lessig, this article describes how food waste is currently being regulated through laws or mandates, social norms, markets, and architecture. Composting laws, changes to date labels, food waste reduction targets, tax-breaks for food donations, and food waste apps, demonstrate an integrated and multimodal, yet emergent, response to food waste.

In light of this observation, the article makes three suggestions for future endeavors. First, food waste advocates should evaluate informal regulatory tools such as social norms and architecture when crafting solutions. Second, more attention should be given to food waste generated during the production and distribution stages. Third, greater effort should be made to differentiate between different types of food wasted (e.g. meat, dairy, produce, etc.). Refocusing food waste efforts in these three areas — the regulatory mechanism or tool used, the location within the food chain where waste is occurring, and the type of food wasted — will make efforts to regulate food waste more robust and efficient.

Keywords: Food Waste, Food Law and Policy, Modes of Regulation, Modern Environmental Law, Private Environmental Governance

Suggested Citation

Morath, Sarah, Regulating Food Waste (April 3, 2017). 48 Texas Environmental Law Journal 239 (2018), U of Houston Law Center No. 2017-A-18, Available at SSRN:

Sarah Morath (Contact Author)

Wake Forest University - School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 7206
Winston-Salem, NC 27109
United States
3306343003 (Phone)

University of Houston Law Center ( email )

4604 Calhoun Road
4604 Calhoun Road
Houston, TX 77204-6060
United States

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