Special Issue on The Risks and Opportunities of the Sharing Economy ∙ Food Sharing in Europe: Between Regulating Risks and the Risks of Regulating
Underground kitchens, public fridges and local meals at strangers’ homes offer an interesting and economically attractive alternatives to traditional channels of food distribution. The new practices of food sharing facilitated by technological development and using new social media combine an interest in modern engaged consumerism with a promise of more sustainable food chains and waste reduction. The main objective of this article is to map and analyse the risks and regulatory challenges posed by the variety of emerging sharing economy practices in the food sector. Drawing on the identification of the key features of sharing economy and the specificity of food in that context, this article discusses various forms, scales and motivations behind the existing food sharing initiatives. The article describes three main categories of food sharing models, namely harvest sharing, meal sharing and leftover sharing, and illustrates them with concrete examples of networks or platforms. Against this background, the article scrutinizes the major risks and challenges of food sharing, ranging from individual and public health and safety to market fragmentation. Reviewing the available regulatory options to address these risks, and juxtaposing them with the risks stemming out of regulatory intervention as such, the contribution calls for balanced approach to food sharing governance in the European Union.