Climate Action

France bans food waste from supermarkets

France has banned supermarkets from throwing away unwanted food, and the ruling could lead to wider action on food waste across Europe

  • 13 July 2016
  • William Brittlebank

France has banned supermarkets from throwing away unwanted food, and the ruling could lead to wider action on food waste across Europe.

In July, 600 Members of the European Parliament against 48 voted in favour of bringing forward new laws that would end unfair trading practices by supermarkets to avoid overproduction and food waste.

The parliament’s environment committee also asked in a report to set up a target of reducing food waste by 50 per cent by 2030, but this still need the parliament’s approbation.

Simona Bonafe, the report’s author, told the Guardian: “While 800 million people in the world go hungry every day, nearly 100m tonnes of Europe’s food are wasted each year. This is a paradox of our time that is no longer bearable. At last, we have the opportunity to structure our legislation to prevent food waste in the EU.”

Norbert Kurilla, Environment Minister of Slovakia, thinks that the EU needs legally binding food waste target in order to go forward.

He told the Guardian: “The sooner we start to have ambitious targets for food waste the better.”

According to campaigners, food waste is responsible for a loss of $940bn per year and it generates 8 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

A petition – which has almost 1 million signatures now – calls for Europe to follow France in the adoption of a ban to prevent supermarkets from throwing away unsold food and give it instead to food banks and charities.

Piotr Barczak a spokesman for the European Environmental Bureau said: “This law authorises immediate food distribution... Before, you could keep it in the freezer. Now you can stand in front of the supermarket before it closes the door and take it to poor people. More than 300 associations have done that since the law was passed.”

In the UK, Labour MP Diane Abbott also called for a British version that would reduce by half the 15m tonnes of food and drink that are thrown away by supermarket every year.

Doubts have been raised about the actual effects of the law in France.

The Scottish National party MEP, Alyn Smith told the Guardian: “There is anecdotal evidence that people are deliberately not purchasing food on the basis that they will then go and claim poverty at a food bank. It is causing problems as supermarkets have a right to make a profit and indeed are there to do so. We need to make sure that we do not pass legislation that makes the situation worse.”

Last week, the first global food loss and waste standard – which can be applied to countries or businesses – was approved at the Global Green Growth Forum in Copenhagen, thanks to the work of a committee including the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP), the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (UN FAO) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

Achim Steiner, UNEP’s director said: “The scale of the problem of food loss and waste can be difficult to comprehend. Having this new standard to measure food loss and waste will not only help us understand just how much food is not making it to our mouths, but will help set a baseline for action.”