France Just Made A Law Forcing Grocery Stores To Give Unsold Food To Charity

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BORDEAUX - 12th March 2011 - The Roussel family at their home in Cenac near Bordeaux, France.  Commissioned for G2 / Jon Henley copy.

Last Thursday, France banned supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food. The new law comes after mounting pressure from environmental and food justice groups. Grocery stores can face fines over $80,000 dollars or two years in jail for violating the law.

The Guardian reports:

“French supermarkets will be banned from throwing away or destroying unsold food and must instead donate it to charities or for animal feed, under a law set to crack down on food waste.

The French national assembly voted unanimously to pass the legislation as France battles an epidemic of wasted food that has highlighted the divide between giant food firms and people who are struggling to eat.

Supermarkets will be barred from deliberately spoiling unsold food so it cannot be eaten. Those with a footprint of 4,305 sq ft (400 sq m) or more will have to sign contracts with charities by July next year or face penalties including fines of up to €75,000 (£53,000) or two years in jail.”

Apparently, some supermarkets were pouring bleach on food that was being put into dumpsters in order to dissuade the growing number of people who were taking the food. This is supposedly to prevent people from getting food poisoning from eating rotten food.

Some radical groups who have been using direct action, to try to get supermarkets to reduce their environmental impact by eliminating food waste. They themselves have participated in reclaiming still edible food from dumpsters. They issued a statement, where they expressed concerns that the bill may give a false sense that the supermarkets are doing their part, while not addressing the problem of food overproduction.

The United States could sure benefit from a law like this. In the U.S, 10 percent of all the food that is produced in the U.S is wasted at the grocery store. That is only a quarter of the shameful 40 percent that is wasted during the entire farm to fork system in the U.S. Granted, the biggest culprit in food waste appears to be done at individual households.

According to the Washington Post, food waste has grown dramatically since the 1970’s. We have not had any progress made in the U.S. nationally on this issue since Bill Clinton signed The Federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act into law, in 1996. The act made it so that grocery stores whom donated food in “good faith” were protected from criminal liability. The idea being that grocery stores would be far more encouraged to donate food items.

With more than 45 million people in need of food in the United States, and an increase in criminalizing food distribution, we can learn a lot from what France is doing.


Reprinted with permission from Addicting Info