Pioneering law against food waste passed in France

French supermarket

On Wednesday (Feb. 3rd), the French Senate definitively passed a law including a series of measures against food waste. The regulation, unanimously approved by both the National Assembly (last May) and the Senate, obliges supermarkets to donate unsold food rather than destroying or throwing it away.

Overall, the law sets a four-step hierarchy of actions that prioritizes prevention of food waste, followed by donation or reprocessing of unsold food for human consumption, recovery for animal feed and, finally, use as compost in agriculture or energy recovery, such as biomethane.

In practice, French supermarkets larger than 400 square meters are now required to donate charities and food banks the food that is approaching its best-before date or to turn it into animal feed or compost. They have time until July 2016 to conform with the law and avoid penalties, which include fines of up to €75,000 or face up to 2 years in jail.

The new measures also includes an education programme focusing on food waste prevention in schools and businesses. In addition, the system through which the food industry can donate discarded products directly to food banks and charities will be symplified, allowing them to distribute much more free meals to poor people.

The law, which received an exceptional cross-party consensus, is part of a wider national policy initiative to half food waste in France by 2025 and followed a large grassroots campaign started by the councillor Arash Derambarsh. Guillaume Garot, former food industry Minister that introduced the bill last year, declared “France will become the leading country in Europe” in the fight against food waste.

According to figures released by the European Commission, around 100 million tonnes of food are wasted annually in the EU and are projected to rise to over 120 million tonnes by 2020. Food waste prevention is an integral part of the Commission’s new Circular Economy Package to stimulate Europe’s transition towards a circular economy and boost global competitiveness, foster sustainable growth and generate new jobs.

With the enactment of this law, France is the first country in Europe and in the world to put in place a national regulation aimed at avoiding good quality food’s waste, saving energy for its post-processing and rising awareness towards sustainable consumption.

 (Image: French supermarket. Credit: Chat_44/Flickr )