Keeping you current

French Government Plans to Fine Grocery Stores That Throw Away Food

New regulations require that markets donate extra food or face fines

French supermarkets are now required to donate food that might normally be thrown away around its sell-by date. (alistairas/Flickr)
smithsonian.com

France is cracking down on food waste. In May, the French government passed a new law that bars supermarkets from purposefully spoiling unsold food and will require them to instead donate such produce to charity or sell it for animal feed, as Gabrielle Sausbery reports for Modern Farmer.

Amid growing concern about food waste both in France and globally, the bill unanimously passed the French assembly on May 22. Under the new legislation stores that span 4,305 square feet or more have until July of next year to set up deals with local charities. If they don't have a system in place to donate or sell expired produce, they'll face a fine of 75,000 Euros (about $85,000) or spend two years in jail. The law also sets up a food waste education program for schools and businesses.

According to Angelique Chrisafis over at The Guardian, France has been building toward legislation like this for a while. In February, the assembly passed a new rule to remove "best by" dates from fresh food (which are essentially made up). The country's economic troubles have driven more people to scavenge dumpsters and trash cans around grocery stores and restaurants for tossed food. To avoid food poisoning cases, some stores pouring bleach on disposed produce. The new law will prohibit such practices.

In France, 15.6 billion pounds of food gets thrown away each year when, for example, its sell by date has passed or when a restaurant customer leaves food on their plate. Roughly 67 percent gets tossed by consumers, while restaurants through away about 15 percent and supermarket stores through away about 11 percent. Since supermarkets contribute the lowest fraction of food waste, the Fédération du Commerce et de la Distribution, an association that represents chain stores, adamantly criticized the legislation.

Other countries have also taken steps to combat food waste. The U.K. government launched a voluntary program with large supermarkets to reduce food and packaging waste. One chain, Tesco, announced this week that they'll be teaming up with a charity to cut the food they throw out. However, the stores do not have set goals they're required to meet.

By comparison, the United States throws away around 133 billion pounds of food annually. Humans only consume about one third of the food that's produced around the world. That translates to a lot of water, money and other resources that went into production of food that never got eaten.

Though France contributes a much smaller fraction of waste only a small portion of the estimated 2.8 trillion pounds of food that gets thrown away around the world, but media coverage of the issue has raised considerable awareness among the public.

About Helen Thompson
Helen Thompson

Helen Thompson writes about science and culture for Smithsonian. She's previously written for NPR, National Geographic News, Nature and others.

Read more from this author |
Tags

Comment on this Story

comments powered by Disqus