Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Problem of Food Waste is Being Addressed in France

France has just passed legislation designed to help minimize food waste. Reducing food waste reduces agriculture's environmental impacts including greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing food waste is also an important part of managing world hunger which is destined to worsen as climate change increasingly impacts global food production.

Around 40 percent of the world's land is taken up by food and agriculture and together they produce almost one third of global greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing waste will decrease the amount of food required and by extension reduce some of the adverse environmental impacts associated with agriculture.

Almost one quarter of the food produced is wasted. Such waste occurs at every stage of the food chain. In total we throw out between 30 and 40 percent of our food. In Europe and North America almost one half of food waste occurs at the final consumption phase. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that we waste 1.3 billion tons of edible food at a cost of $750 billion annually.

American consumers throw away around 20 percent of all the food they buy. The problem of food waste is also a concern in France where the average French person throws out 44 to 66 pounds of food each year. Much of that food (15 lbs) is still in its wrapping

Supermarkets commonly discard food which is still edible. In France supermarket food waste represents around 10 percent of the 7.1 million tons of food wasted annually in the country. Last summer French supermarket chain Intermarche decided to do something about the problem of discarding edible food. They launched a clever campaign to sell what they call "ugly" produce at a 30 percent discount.

Now the French have passed legislation that will forbid grocery stores from throwing away unsold food. Under the new law produce that is still safe to eat must be donated to charity or if it is no longer fit for human consumption it must be given to farmers for use as animal feed or compost.

As of July 2016 large stores in France must sign agreements with charities or face very significant fines amounting to as much as $85,000.

While the French law targeting supermarkets is a good start, there are other even larger sources of food waste. Restaurants waste 15 percent of food but consumers are by far the biggest problem as they waste a staggering 67 percent of the food they purchase.

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