By Angelique Chrisafis | The Guardian
Under a law passed unanimously by the French senate, as of Wednesday large shops will no longer bin good quality food approaching its best-before date. Charities will be able to give out millions more free meals each year to people struggling to afford to eat.
The law follows a grassroots campaign in France by shoppers, anti-poverty campaigners and those opposed to food waste. The campaign, which led to a petition, was started by the councillor Arash Derambarsh. In December a bill on the issue passed through the national assembly, having been introduced by the former food industry minister Guillaume Garot.
Campaigners now hope to persuade the EU to adopt similar legislation across member states.
The law has been welcomed by food banks, which will now begin the task of finding the extra volunteers, lorries, warehouse and fridge space to deal with an increase in donations from shops and food companies.
Supermarkets will also be barred from deliberately spoiling food in order to stop it being eaten by people foraging in stores’ bins. In recent years, growing numbers of families, students, unemployed and homeless people in France have been foraging in supermarket bins at night to feed themselves. People have been finding edible products thrown out just as their best-before dates approached.
Some supermarkets doused binned food in bleach, reportedly to prevent food poisoning from items taken from bins. Other supermarkets deliberately binned food in locked warehouses for collection by refuse trucks.
Now bosses of supermarkets with a footprint of 400 sq metres (4,305 sq ft) or more will have to sign donation contracts with charities or face a penalty of €3,750 (£2,900).
Jacques Bailet, head of Banques Alimentaires, a network of French food banks, described the law as “positive and very important symbolically”. He said it would greatly increase an already emerging trend for supermarkets to donate to food banks.
“Most importantly, because supermarkets will be obliged to sign a donation deal with charities, we’ll be able to increase the quality and diversity of food we get and distribute,” he said. “In terms of nutritional balance, we currently have a deficit of meat and a lack of fruit and vegetables. This will hopefully allow us to push for those products.”
Until now French food banks received 100,000 tonnes of donated goods, 35,000 tonnes of which came from supermarkets. Even a 15% increase in food coming from supermarkets would mean 10m more meals being handed out each year, Bailet said.