France just became the first country in the world to prohibit supermarkets from deliberately spoiling unsold food, forcing them to instead donate leftovers to charities or as animal feed.
Under a law passed unanimously by the French senate, as of Wednesday, large supermarkets will no longer be allowed to throw away good quality food that has reached its best-before date. Supermarkets that are 400 square meters and larger will be required to sign donation contracts with charities or face the risk of penalties including fine up to €75,000 (about US$84,000) and two years in jail.
Charity organizations will be the main benefactors of the law and will be able to give out free food to millions of people who are struggling to eat.
The law comes as part of a campaign by anti-poverty activists and shoppers opposed to wasting food. The petition presented by the groups helped in introducing a bill by the former food industry minister Guillaume Garot. The campaigners are now hoping to expand their efforts to the EU and persuade them to adopt similar laws across member states.
And with good cause too. A few years ago a German supermarket, Lidl, poisoned its trash with cleaning acids when it got frustrated with homeless people scavenging for food. Many other countries of the world, including France, are notorious for calling the cops on poor people forced to Dumpster dive. Instead of feeding the poor, each year France destroys over 7.1 million tonnes of food.
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A report by UNEP and World Resource Institute showed shocking figures about food waste — about one-third of all food produced worldwide worth around US$1 trillion gets lost or wasted. The 2.8 trillion pounds of food can feed 3 billion people!
The U.S. should strive to take a leaf out of France’s book as the conditions in the states are no different. Over 49 million people in the U.S. are officially food insecure and don’t know where their next meal will come from. About $162 billion worth of food goes uneaten. Supermarkets and convenient stores alone throw away 27 million tons of edible food worth $30 billion, instead of giving it away for fear it might slump the market for edibles.
These numbers are not at all promising and the justification of economic profit for so much food wastage is inhumane.
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