This Country Wants to Ban Grocery Stores From Tossing Food in the Garbage

Instead of throwing unsold fruits and veggies into the trash, supermarkets in France will have to donate them to charities and farms.
(Photo: Philippe Huguen/Getty Images)
May 22, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

In an effort to keep hungry citizens out of their Dumpsters, some grocery stores douse their tossed foods with bleach to discourage rifling through the trash. But France’s days of destroying unsold yet still edible food are numbered, thanks to new legislation aimed at preventing food waste.

France’s National Assembly unanimously passed a measure on Thursday requiring supermarkets 400 square feet or larger to donate unsold food to charity, for animal feed, or for farming compost, The Guardian reports. All grocery stores are banned from purposefully ruining food. “It’s scandalous to see bleach being poured into supermarket dustbins along with edible foods,” said Guillaume Garot, the Socialist deputy who sponsored the bill.

Market managers who don’t abide by the new regulations by July of next year will face fines of up to $75,000 or two years in jail.

The measure is part of a larger bill on energy and the environment that aims to cut France’s food waste in half by 2025. But it’s not set in stone: The lower house of Parliament will vote on the bill next week before it heads to the Senate.

Why You Should Care: A third of all food produced worldwide is trashed annually, with the U.S. tossing about 60 metric tons of food each year. The environmental impacts of food waste are widespread, from large amounts of water and fertilizer during production, to fuel and energy used for transport and storage, to the eventual end result of food decaying in landfills. Food decomposition emits methane, a harmful greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.

While unsold food rots, 805 million people are hungry people worldwide, according to the World Food Program. That’s not just in developing countries: 50 million Americans are food insecure.

France’s legislation is a step in the right direction, but it has already received criticism from the Federation of Commerce, which represents large grocery chains in that country. The trade group reports that big stores are only responsible for 5 percent of France’s food waste, according to Reuters.

French supermarket chain Intermarché introduced a discount on misshapen fruits and veggies last summer in an effort to cut back on tossed produce. But citizens will have to do their part as well to decrease trashed food: French residents toss roughly 45 pounds of food each year.