France: Food waste is a crime as of today
As a pioneering new law begins in France that bans supermarkets from destroying or throwing away food, discussion mounts about the need for similar legislation around Europe.
The new law, the first of its kind in the world, was previously passed unanimously by the French Senate and makes it illegal for supermarkets to dump or destroy unsold food.
The groundbreaking legislation is in response to the country’s food waste epidemic and was voted through in an unusual cross-party consensus last year and has now come into effect.
Companies have the responsibility of distributing unsold food to charities such as food banks, or donating the food for animal waste as part of the nationwide food waste crackdown.
Retailers of 4,305 sq ft or more have to make contractual arrangements with charities by July or face the consequences - fines of up €75,000 (US$84,566) or two years in jail. Food distributors who deliberately make food unfit for human consumption will also be subject to fines.
Could there be a ripple effect throughout Europe?
The strong position adopted by France could be a benchmark for other European countries to follow suit.
Although British law does not go anywhere near as far as the new French legislation, the U.K. Government has a voluntary agreement with the retailer and grocery sector to reduce food waste in the supply chain. However, there are no mandatory targets.
Some proponents are encouraging other European Union countries to clean up food waste problems and introduce similar laws.
An online petition on Change.Org, 'Stop Food Waste In Europe', currently has 756,212 signatures. It was started by founder of food waste campaign group Feedback, Tristram Stuart.
"It’s now time to step up the campaign and call for European legislation to stop food waste in every country in Europe," he says in the petition.
"That’s why we’ve launched this petition asking the European Union to introduce a new directive calling on every supermarket to give its unsold food to a charity of its choice."
It is estimated that 89 million tons of food is wasted in Europe every year.