Viva la France! Country Bans Supermarkets From Tossing Out Food

Here’s more proof that petitions really work.

In December the French government passed a law banning supermarkets from throwing away unsold food. The law requires stores there to donate unwanted food to charities or food banks.

Last week that law went into effect. Take note, rest of the world.

The Independent reported, “This law was voted unanimously by the French senate after a petition was launched  by Courbevoie councillor Arash Derambarsh.”

Derambarsh described the move as “a historic victory.” He told the Guardian, “It’s extremely rare for a law to be passed so quickly and with unanimous support.”

Apparently before this ruling, dumpster diving was a significant problem for supermarkets in France. Some stores opted to destroy expired food by pouring bleach over it rather than see it reach hungry mouths. But those days are behind France.

With the new law, individuals will be allowed to set up associations with the approval of the agriculture ministry, to collect and distribute food. Derambarsh said, “It means that ordinary citizens can show their solidarity and help distribute this food to those who need it.” He called the act of wasting food and deliberately making it unfit for consumption while the homeless and poor go hungry as “scandalous and absurd.”

How much food are we talking about here? From the Guardian: “An estimated 7.1m tonnes of food are binned in France each year –11% by shops. The figure for across the European Union is 89m tonnes, while an estimated 1.3bn tonnes are wasted worldwide.”

Jacques Bailet, head of Banques Alimentaires, a network of French food banks, described the new law as “positive and very important symbolically.” He told the Guardian, “Most importantly, because supermarkets will be obliged to sign a donation deal with charities, we’ll be able to increase the quality and diversity of food we get and distribute.”

The law will also make it easier for factories to donate excess products directly to food banks. What used to be a complicated process is now faster and easier. “That is very important for food banks because this is a real source of quality products, coming straight from the factory,” Bailet said.

Throwing food away wastes more than just the food itself. Care2’s Diane M. explains:

“Tossing good food is a real waste of natural resources. Billions of gallons of oil and water and untold tons of paper and plastic are consumed every year to grow food, package it, and transport it to the nation’s grocery stores. Throwing food away is like throwing away the resources used to produce it.”

Diane M. points out that the label on food doesn’t actually mean the food is going to spoil by the date on the package, it’s just what many consumers believe.

According to the Guardian, France’s plan, which passed unanimously in the Assemblée Nationale, originally passed in May as part of another law but was later annulled by France’s constitutional court because of procedural faults.

With the law now in place, it will apply to any supermarket with a footprint of 4000 square feet or larger. Companies that don’t comply could incur fines up to 3750 Euros, which equates to over $4,000.

The Guardian tallied that until now French food banks received 100,000 tonnes of donated goods, 35,000 tonnes of which came from supermarkets. Time will tell how significant the increases in food donations are to charities.

Bailet said, “Even a 15% increase in food coming from supermarkets would mean 10m more meals being handed out each year.”

While this new law has been celebrated by many as an historic turning point in the fight against global food waste, not everyone is a fan of this new plan.

Anti-food waste campaigners Skipchen says, “This law does nothing to address the underlying business practices responsible for driving global food waste in the first place, and may undermine efforts to address the systemic cause of this system of waste we live in.”

In this post, Skipchen raises some key questions about the move: “Does the legislation address the issue of food waste at its source?” and “How much does this address food poverty and homelessness?”

Skipchen goes on to describe a business model “where supermarkets are able to push their food waste up and down the supply chain, dodge blame and avoid accountability,” leading to its conclusion that “the new French law fails to address the root cause of global and national food waste.”

It’s true. The new French law does little to address why supermarkets end up with so much waste to begin with, and as Skipchen explains, it “does not provide a mandate forcing supermarkets to eliminate or even reduce the amount of food waste they incur in the first place.”

But at least it’s something, and if all goes according to plan, food that would otherwise end up going to waste will now feed hungry people.

Derambarsh‘s next step, according to the Guardian, is to persuade the European commission to require member states to introduce similar legislation across the EU and, eventually, around the world.

Derambarsh also has his eyes on other purveyors of food waste. “This battle is only just beginning. We now have to fight food waste in restaurants, bakeries, school canteens and company canteens.”

What are your thoughts about France’s move to ban its supermarkets from wasting food? Is it a band aid law that will only serve to mend an imperfect system or an important first step towards the alleviation of world hunger?

Or—perhaps a little of both?

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim Ven1 years ago


Jerome S
Jerome S1 years ago

thanks for sharing.

Dennis Hall
Dennis Hall2 years ago


BJ J2 years ago

A step in right direction. USA should be doing this as well.

Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Christine J.
Christine J2 years ago

I think it's a great step in the right direction. Another laudable effort is being made by Woolworths. They are selling imperfect fruit and veges at reduced prices, calling them "The Odd Bunch" as part of a very clever marketing tactic. This helps everyone in the supply chain, from farmers to shoppers, and the environment in general. I for one am happy to buy items which may not look great, so long as they taste good and are a bargain.

Ellen M.
Ellen M.2 years ago

I agree with the person said France needs to change the law requiring animal testing on cosmetics!!! It is inhumane & not necessary in 2016!Use alternative non animal tests!

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

angela usher
angela U2 years ago

Thank you for the clarification Nicole : ) It's a start...