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Food & Hunger

France Becomes First Country to Ban Supermarket Food Waste

Flickr: Diego Sevilla Ruiz

The French senate unanimously passed a law on Wednesday that stops grocery stores from throwing away and intentionally spoiling food that approaches best-buy dates. 

Instead, they'll have to give all of this food to charities and food banks, which will provide the hungry with millions of more meals. Just a 15% increase in donated food will mean 10 million more meals per year. 

A recent spike in France's unemployed and homeless populations has caused more families to forage for food. To stop people from going through store dumpsters, some managers have resorted to pouring bleach over everything or using locks to make the food impossible to get. 

The law will put an end to this cruel behavior by imposing contracts on super markets that, if violated, will lead to hefty fines and even prison sentences. Worldwide, too much food is thrown away and it should rightly be viewed as a crime. 

Each year, 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted. All of this food could easily feed the world's hungry. In France, the bulk of food waste comes from regular people, but stores still account for 11% of the country's perfectly edible yet discarded food. 

Food waste is costly in multiple ways: (1) the human toll of hunger (2) the environmental toll of landfill emissions and runoff (3) the financial toll of disposing of food. 

The new law will drastically reduce these costs for France.

In addition to increasing the overall amount of food given to charity, the law will improve the diversity, nutrional quality and freshness of items. Now that there is no alternative to donating, stores will expedite the process. Plus, the new arrangement will encourage factories to deal directly with charities for quickly expiring products such as yogurt.

French food banks receive about 100,000 tons of donated goods each year. 35% comes from supermarkets. In the months ahead there will be a huge surge in donated food and charities and food banks are getting ready by recruiting more volunteers and getting the necessary supplies--such as freezers--in place. 

More countries need to follow France's lead--nobody should be going hungry when the food to feed them is available.

To learn more about food waste around the world, check out this piece