France has passed a law that bars supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food, forcing them to instead donate it to charities. The law seeks to tackle the food waste epidemic while also addressing poverty.
According to an article in the Guardian, the French national assembly voted unanimously to pass the legislation. “There’s an absolute urgency – charities are desperate for food,” the centre-right deputy Yves Jögo told parliament.
The new law bars supermarkets with a footprint of 400 square metres or more from deliberately spoiling unsold food so it cannot be eaten. They instead have until July 2106 to sign contracts with charities to donate them the unsold food.
Some supermarkets douse unsold food with bleach while others have lock it in warehouses until it is picked up by refuse trucks to protect scavengers from food poisoning, reports the Guardian. But many people who forage for food – poor families, students, the unemployed or the homeless – argue that they are able to find edible food that was thrown out just as their best-before dates approached.
Despite its cross-party consensus, the law is coming under fire from opposing interest groups. According to the article, anti-poverty, recycling and food waste groups charge that the law is not a “magic solution” to food waste and fails to address wider issues such as overproduction in the food industry and waste along food distribution chains.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Fédération du Commerce et de la Distribution, which represents large supermarkets, criticises the plan for putting disproportionate responsibility on the supermarkets. Jacques Creyssel, head of the organisation, said that big stores represent only 5 per cent of food waste and are already some of the largest food donors to charities.
According to the article, the average French person throws out 20 to 30 kilograms of food a year, 7 kg of which is still in its wrapping. Of the 7.1 million tonnes of food wasted in France each year, 67 per cent is thrown away by consumers, 15 per cent by restaurants and 11 per cent by shops.