French supermarkets have been prohibited from throwing away or intentionally spoiling unsold food under a new bill passed unanimously in February by the country’s senate. Supermarkets larger than 400 square metres will be required to donate the excess to charities and food banks, or face a fine of €3,750. The legislation also takes aim at food destruction, stopping shops from bleaching or securing excess food in locked dumpsters to keep it away from food foragers.
Other parts of the law take aim at cutting through red tape that has made it difficult to donate excess produce in the past. It will become easier to donate food directly from factories to food banks, for example.
The new food mandate is the culmination of a long grassroots campaign begun by Arash Derambarsh, local councillor for Courbevoie. The coalition, comprising anti-poverty activists, consumers and environmentalists, is hoping to target other forms of food waste and ultimately expand the movement across the European Union. “We now have to fight food waste in restaurants, bakeries, school canteens and company canteens,” Derambarsh said in a statement.
Another French law that came into effect in January targets food waste at restaurants by requiring retailers to offer takeaway containers to customers. Some 7.1 million tonnes of food waste is generated in France every year, according to the French government. Consumers generated 67 per cent of this total, followed by restaurants at 15 per cent and retail at 11 per cent.
The new law has come under some criticism for failing to target the largest sources of food waste, but overwhelming public support and bipartisan cooperation ensured that this legislation passed through the French legislative process swiftly.
Other countries have had some success in reducing supermarket food waste through voluntary efforts, including the United Kingdom. A recent study by the British charity WRAP found the retail sector responsible for only 1.7 per cent of food waste across the country, compared to France’s 11 per cent figure. This has been ascribed, in part, to aggressive industry-led efforts to reduce food waste throughout the supply chain.