France’s national assembly has passed legislation that will force supermarkets to donate any produce it cannot sell to food poverty charities.
The legislation has been introduced in an attempt to lower the millions of tonnes of food that is wasted domestically every year. Supermarkets will be banned from disposing of unsold food, and will instead be required to give items up to charities and for the feeding of animals.
Retailers must also ensure that the application of the new rules does not put an unfair burden on charities – the food must be in good enough condition to use at the point of donation, the legislation states.
France is Europe’s fourth worst offender when it comes to food wastage – after the UK, Germany and the Netherlands – spoiling almost 140,000 tonnes of food per person every year, European Commission figures show.
France is Europe’s fourth largest offender when it comes to food waste.
The bill attracted the support of “a rare cross-party consensus”, London’s Guardian newspaper reported. Centre-right deputy Yves Jégo said: “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.”
And Socialist deputy Guillaume Garot added that it was “scandalous to see bleach being poured into supermarket dustbins along with edible foods”.
The campaign towards criminalising commercial-scale food wastage was spearheaded by Arash Derambarsh, a councillor in a Parisian suburb, whose initial petition recruited the support of 200,000 signatories in its first four months, including a number of celebrity supporters.
Derambarsh told The Guardian: “I have been insulted and attacked and accused of being naïve and idealistic, but I became a local councillor because I wanted to help people. Perhaps it is naïve to be concerned about other human beings, but I know what it is like to be hungry.
“When I was a law student living on about €400 a month after I’d paid my rent, I used to have one proper meal a day around 5pm. I’d eat pasta, or potatoes, but it’s hard to study or work if you are hungry and always thinking about where the next meal will come from.”
According to 2014 statistics, poverty in France is at its highest level since 1997. As the number of the country’s unemployed reached 3.3m, the proportion of the population living on less than 60% of the national average income also rose to roughly 14% – or 8.7m. In the northern border town of Roubaix, 45% of residents fell below the poverty line.
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