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FOOD & DRINK

French stores will be forced to donate old food

French MPs voted unanimously on Wednesday to force grocery stores to give out-of-date food to those in need, rather than discarding or destroying it.

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

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that large supermarkets will soon be required to partner up with local charities that can help distribute unsold and out-of-date food to consumers in need.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

 

CULTURE

Le goûter: The importance of the afternoon snack in France

The French have developed an entire cultural tradition around the idea of an afternoon snack. It's called "Le goûter" and here's what you need to know about it.

Le goûter: The importance of the afternoon snack in France

With all those patisseries and viennoiseries tempting the tastebuds in high street boulangerie after boulangerie, there can be little wonder that France  – which takes food very seriously – has also invented the correct time to eat them.

Let us introduce you to the cultural tradition of le goûter – the noun of the verb “to taste”, and a cultural tradition in France dating back into the 19th century, perhaps even as far back as the Renaissance … allowing for the fact that people have snacked for centuries, whether or not it had a formal name. 

It refers to a very particular snack time, usually at around 4pm daily. This is the good news.

The bad news is that, officially, le goûter is reserved for children. This is why many schools, nurseries and holiday activity centres offer it and offices don’t. The idea is that, because the family evening meal is eaten relatively late, this mid-afternoon snack will keep les enfants from launching fridge raids, or bombarding their parents with shouts of, “j’ai faim!”.

Most adults, with their grown-up iron will-power, are expected to be able to resist temptation in the face of all that pastry, and live on their three set meals per day. Le grignotage – snacking between meals – is frowned on if you’re much older than your washing machine.

But, whisper it quietly, but just about everyone snacks (grignoter), anyway – a baguette that doesn’t have one end nibbled off in the time it takes to travel from boulanger to table isn’t a proper baguette. Besides, why should your children enjoy all the treats? 

We’re not saying ignore the nutritionists, but if you lead an active, reasonably healthy lifestyle, a bite to eat in the middle of the afternoon isn’t going to do any harm. So, if you want to join them, feel free.

What do you give for goûter 

It’s a relatively light snack – we’re not talking afternoon tea here. Think a couple of biscuits, a piece of cake, a pain au chocolat (or chocolatine, for right-thinking people in southwest France), piece of fruit, pain au lait, a croissant, yoghurt, compote, or a slice of bread slathered in Nutella.

Things might get a little more formal if friends and their children are round at the goûter hour – a pre-visit trip to the patisserie may be a good idea if you want to avoid scratching madly through the cupboards and don’t have time to create something tasty and homemade.

Not to be confused with

Une collation – adult snacking becomes socially acceptable when it’s not a snack but part of une collation served, for example, at the end of an event, or at a gathering of some kind. Expect, perhaps, a few small sandwiches with the crusts cut off, a few small pastries, coffee and water.

L’apéro – pre-dinner snacks, often featuring savoury bites such as charcuterie, olives, crisps and a few drinks, including alcoholic ones, as a warm up to the main meal event, or as part of an early evening gathering before people head off to a restaurant or home for their evening meal.

Un en-cas – this is the great adult snacking get-out. Although, in general, snacking for grown-ups is considered bad form, sometimes it has to be done. This is it. Call it un en-cas, pretend you’re too hungry to wait for the next meal, and you’ll probably get away with it.

Le goûter in action

Pour le goûter aujourd’hui, on a eu un gâteau – For snack today, we had some cake.

Veuillez fournir un goûter à votre enfant – Please provide an afternoon snack for your child.

J’ai faim ! Je peux avoir un goûter ? – I’m hungry! Can I have a snack?

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