France bans edible food dumping
In an effort to curb food waste, France is making it illegal for large stores to throw away any unsold but still edible food.
France’s national assembly on May 21 voted unanimously for the new law, which will force grocers to make sure the food is either donated to a charity or used as animal feed. Stores will have to sign contracts with charities by July 2016 or face fines of up to €75,000 ($83,000), two years in jail or other penalties.
According to the United Nations, up to one-third of the world’s food is wasted per year. According to Feeding America West Michigan, 40 percent of food produced in the U.S. goes to waste and 50 million Americans are struggling with hunger. Food waste is also a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.
The center-right deputy Yves Jégo, according to reports, told France’s parliament, "There’s an absolute urgency — charities are desperate for food. The most moving part of this law is that it opens us up to others who are suffering."
The law will also introduce an education program about food waste in schools and businesses. In February, the country passed a resolution removing "best by" dates on fresh food. The goal is to cut national food waste in half by 2025.
The law follows reports in France of poor families, the unemployed and homeless sustaining themselves by foraging at night in supermarket dumpsters. Some stores have locked up or doused their dumpsters with bleach to prevent potential food poisoning.
Many said the "zero-tolerance" policy set a strong standard for others. But several larger retailers felt they were being unfairly punished. Some sustainability groups likewise felt programs targeting supermarkets failed to address the wider issue of overproduction in the food industry, the wastage in food distribution chains, and waste stemming from households.
"The problem, more often than not, is that we have set unreasonable standards for foods sold commercially," argued Roberto A. Ferdman in The Washington Post. "Countless studies have pointed to this very inefficiency, whereby consumers mistake cautionary labels for full-stop warnings about foods."
- France acts on food waste – Just-Food
- France to force big supermarkets to give unsold food to charities – The Guardian
- Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill – National Resources Defense Council
- Should US follow France’s lead on food donations? – Wood TV
- New French Law Requires Grocery Stores To Give Leftover Food To Charity – Refinery29
- France is making it illegal for supermarkets to throw away edible food – The Washington Post (tiered sub.)
Would a “zero-tolerance” food waste policy such as that in France float in the U.S.? What do you see as the steps necessary to address the issue of food waste?