France Forces Large Supermarkets to Donate Food Waste to Charities

Food Waste Ban in Place in French Supermarkets, Inspires Similar Actions in EU

Food waste is a big deal: Each year, 1.3 billion tons of food goes to waste while 11.3 percent of the world’s population goes hungry. To crack down on food waste, France has passed a law that prohibits large supermarkets from throwing away or destroying old food. Now, they must donate the food to charities or for animal feed.

The vote was united across party lines in France to combat what politicians call an urgent need to take action. Supermarkets are also barred from deliberately spoiling food, which according to The Guardian, many large establishments went to great lengths to do.

“It’s scandalous to see bleach being poured into supermarket dustbins along with edible foods,” the Socialist deputy Guillaume Garot, a former food minister who proposed the bill said to The Guardian.

It’s unclear why some supermarkets ruined food with bleach and in some cases, kept food waste in locked warehouse bins to keep a hungry population from foraging.

According to The Guardian:

The practice of foraging in supermarket bins is not without risk – some people picking through rotten fruit and rubbish to reach yoghurts, cheese platters or readymade pizzas have been stopped by police and faced criminal action for theft. In 2011, a 59-year-old father of six working for the minimum wage at a Monoprix supermarket in Marseille almost lost his job after a colleague called security when they saw him pick six melons and two lettuces out of a bin.

Large supermarket chains will now have to sign contracts with charities to ensure their unsold food no longer goes to waste. While 67 percent of France’s food waste problem is a result of consumers, and only 11 percent a result of shops like grocery stores, the law will hopefully still make a large dent in the problem.

In the U.S., we throw away 40 percent of our food—the equivalent of more than 20 pounds of food per person per month. In all, Americans throw away $165 billion worth of food each year and we currently have no mandatory laws like this in place.

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Grocery shopping image via Shuttershock