French stores will be forced to donate old food

French stores will be forced to donate old food
People take food that has been collected the night before from waste containers of a supermarket in Lyon. Photo: AFP
French MPs voted unanimously on Wednesday to force grocery stores to give out-of-date food to those in need, rather than discarding or destroying it.

France has taken another step forward in the crackdown on food wastage in supermarkets.

MPs agreed on Wednesday that large supermarkets will soon be required to partner up with local charities that can help distribute unsold and out-of-date food to consumers in need.

With the COP21 climate summit in Paris, French MPs were particularly motivated to tackle food waste, not least considering that food waste is a major contributor to climate change and drought.

“Throwing out a loaf of bread is like throwing out a bathtub full of water,” said the Republican MP Jean-Pierre Decool according to AFP.

“Throwing out a kilogram of beef is equivalent to wasting 15,000 litres of water.”

The French parliament had passed a similar measure in May 2015, but it was rejected by the national constitutional court due to procedural errors. The new law will go into effect at the end of January.

French households throw out between 20 and 30 kilograms of food each year.  This figure jumps to 140 kilograms of wasted food per person when you look at the entire chain of food production, according to the French environmental statistics agency Adème.

In addition to limiting the food thrown away by supermarkets, the law targets the particularly controversial practice of destroying food by pouring bleach on it.

Some French supermarket chains had been adding bleach to garbage bins to prevent people from scavenging food waste. Stores claim the practice protected people from getting sick from eating old or contaminated food from bins.

French MPs from across the political spectrum worked together on the bill. MP Frédéric Lefebvre expressed his pride over the multi-partisan effort in a video interview with AFP after the vote.

“French people say they’re angry that we don’t do what we were elected to do, which is to work for the French,” he said. 

“What we did tonight shows that we’re capable of agreeing on subjects that are vital and in the public interest.”

French activists have worked to raise awareness of food waste in recent years. In 2014, Baptiste Dubanchet biked 3,000 kilometres across Europe eating only discarded food. 
“I really didn't think we were wasting as much as we are,” he told the The Local at the time
“Even when you know about it, it's still surprising to open a garbage can and find so many potatoes, so much fruit, yogurt, sometimes 500-litre or 1000-litre bins are filled with things that are still good enough to eat.”
With Wednesday's bill lawmakers hope all that wasted food will end up helping people who need it. 
Frenchman eats from Europe's bins in protest