France is the first nation in the world to ban grocery stores from throwing away food, requiring instead that it be donated before it spoils. The law passed on Feb. 3 gives supermarkets a mandate to donate unspoiled food approaching its expiration date to charities.
The legislation was introduced by French councilor Guillaume Garot, who was part of a national campaign against wasting food, reports The Guardian.
Food banks throughout France hailed the decision as a step toward providing more food to those in need. Charities will now have access to larger quantities of higher-quality food.
“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,” said Jacques Bailet, chief of French food bank network Banques Alimentaires.
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“In terms of nutritional balance, we currently have a deficit of meat and a lack of fruits and vegetables. This will hopefully allow us to push for those products.”
The measure is expected to prevent foragers from taking food from supermarkets’ dumpsters. Foraging for food has become more prevalent in France as those struggling to afford food search for lower-cost ways to feed themselves, reports The Guardian.
Supermarkets will also be barred from destroying or spoiling food intentionally, reports The Independent. French grocery stores had reportedly taken to pouring bleach on food to deter foragers, which will now be illegal.
French companies found in violation of the new law could face fines of up to $83,000 or two years in jail.
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Paris-area councilor Arash Derambarsh reportedly started a petition calling for a nationwide ban on food waste. The campaign grew in momentum until a bill was unanimously passed in the French Senate on Feb. 3.
Derambarsh is now reportedly pushing the European Union to adopt a continent-wide ban on food waste.
“The next step is to ask the President, Francois Hollande, to put pressure on [European Commission President] Jean-Claude Juncker and to extend this law to the whole of the EU,” said Derambarsh.
“The battle is only just beginning.”