France has become a trailblazer in the fight against food waster, introducing a new law that bans supermarkets over 400 metres squared from disposing of or destroying left over food. Instead, in an effort to combat the growing problem of food wastage, all food must be donated to charity. With the new law, the French government hopes to makes steps towards solving the gross disparity between excess foods in supermarkets and people struggling to find enough food to sustain themselves. Unused food that is unfit for human consumption must be used to feed cattle and other livestock, where possible. Penalties of €3,750 (approx. 98 million Dong) will apply to non-compliant supermarket retailers.

As well as making it obligatory for supermarkets to participate in the waste food donation schemes, the new law will also require the implementation of an education programme, set to be rolled out in schools and businesses, to raise awareness of food waste.

On the 22nd April The Guardian commented that it is unusual for the French Parliament to reach a unanimous decision in such a short space of time.

Yves Jégo, vice president of the Union of Democrats and Independents made this statement before Parliament: “There is 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.”

In addition to the beneficial nature of donating unused food to charity, it is hoped that the law will encourage supermarkets to take stock of what is used and what is not, and to be more conscientious in their approach to food waste. Supermarket officials stressed the importance of charities being equipped with the correct refrigeration, food storage, and transport facilities to cope with the amount of donations.

Guillaume Garot, former Minister for the Food Industry, who is currently a member of the French Socialist Party said of the proposed bill, “It’s scandalous to see bleach being poured into supermarket dustbins along with edible foods.”

In recent years, the French media has reported a rise in ‘bin diving’ for food that is past it’s ‘use by’ date, but still edible. The participants in this activity are reported to be students, unemployed people, homeless individuals and families facing poverty. Despite this, there are still many ‘Hypermarkets’ that choose to soak their unused food in harsh chemicals such as bleach, to prevent it from being foraged and eaten.
According to official estimates. The average French person throws away between 20-30 kilos of food each year, 7 kilograms of which is still in its original packaging. The nationwide cost of annual food wastage in France is approximately 20 billion Euros.

Non-Profit organisations in France have launched many campaigns to raise awareness of this issue. Members of an activist group in Lyon have been retrieving food thrown away by supermarkets, and redistributing it on the streets to those in need.

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