New French Law Requires Grocery Stores To Give Leftover Food To Charity

Photographed by Isa Wipfli
French food is famous for being decadent — but the country just took a very healthy step. On Thursday, the French Parliament unanimously voted to pass a measure that requires supermarkets to donate or otherwise re-use unsold food.

The new requirements are only part of France’s work towards reducing waste. In February, the country passed a resolution removing the often-spurious “best by” date on fresh food. And, as a corollary element to the new law, France will introduce an education program about food waste. The goal is to cut national food waste in half by 2025.

The law will require supermarkets to form partnerships with charities by July of 2016, or face penalties such as heavy fines or time in jail. Guillaume Garot, the politician who proposed the bill, was quoted by The Guardian, saying, “It’s scandalous to see bleach being poured into supermarket dustbins along with edible foods.” Unsold and edible food may be donated to charity or used for purposes such as animal feed. 

Food waste is an enormous social and environmental problem. According to the United Nations, up to one-third of the world’s food is wasted per year, to the tune of 1.3 billion tons, or $750 billion. Official estimates say that France wastes 20-30 kilograms (44-66 lbs) of food per person per year. The United States is also one of the worst offenders; in 2012, we collectively threw away 35 million tons of food.

France’s measure comes at a time when the issue of food insecurity and global hunger is an increasing problem, even in wealthy countries like the United States. The environmental impact of food waste is also extreme, pouring 3.3 billion tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. 

While the measure is aimed at large businesses, supermarkets aren’t the only places where food is wasted. In the U.S., 40-50% of food waste is thrown away by individuals at home. So, box up those leftovers, guys. Your day-old macaroni might help save the world.
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