Should people be allowed to eat out-of-date food thrown away by supermarkets? Photo: Starr/Flickr
Is it wrong to raid a supermarket waste bin for out-of-date food? The question was once again being asked in France on Tuesday after it emerged three people face court after they were caught "dumpster diving" looking for a meal.
The theft took place in May last year in the southern French town of Frontignan, when the trio went through the bins of a local supermarket and took out-of-date food.
As a result, the three young people were arrested, detained, and will face trial on Tuesday afternoon in Montpellier for "the theft of out-of-date food".
The three, a student, an unemployed person and a part time actor, face up to seven years in prison and a €100,000 fine.
The case has riled some in France, including members of the League of Human Rights who have organized a protest outside the court, calling the ordeal a "criminilization of poverty".
The fact that French supermarkets throw out perfectly edible food has proved a cause for concern in the past, with reports that some stores had even resorted to spraying their perishables with bleach to prevent others from eating them.
The court case coincides with the release of the French comedy film “Discount” which looks at the issue of big supermarkets.
In the film staff at a big supermarket, threatened with the sack, end up selling all the out-of-date food to poor people at a discount rate.
There are efforts being made at a political level to look at the issue.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls tasked the Ministry of Agriculture in October to carry out a report in supermarket waste, with results expected in two months.
And in July last year conservative UMP deputy Jean-Pierre Decool proposed a bill that would see supermarkets with a surface area above 1,000 square metres, like Carrefour and Leclerc, forced to hand over their food waste rather than throw it away or destroy it.
But contrary to what you might imagine, some charities are against the idea that supermarkets hand them over their out-of-date food.
For Patrice Dallem, from the Red Cross, it would mean unaffordable “logistical and human costs” for charities if it was their responsibility to hand out the food.
Another Frenchman aiming to raise awareness about Europe's wastage is Baptiste Dubanche, who last year undertook a 3,000km journey from Paris to Warsaw surviving solely on food he salvaged from waste bins.