France recently put into effect a new law which requires all grocery stores over 4,304 square feet to donate unsold food to charities. Those stores must sign contracts with local shelters or food banks to ensure that they do not waste food which is still edible, but not expected to sell.
Sell by and busy by dates on food are, largely, nonsense. They are put there by manufacturers to indicate when the food might reach it’s peak quality, not when it goes bad or becomes unsafe. Customers tend not to buy food past these dates, so it gets thrown out. As a result, about one third of all food made for human consumption goes to waste, much of it in the European Union and the United States.
In France, needy people had made a habit of sifting through grocery garbage bins for edible food, which in turn prompted many stores to secure their bins or to destroy the food, sometimes by dumping bleach on it. In light of the facts, those actions seem downright cruel, and it was that mindset that got French activists to pursue the new law, which was passed back in December.
That food will not go to use and be given to needy people, which doesn’t cost the grocery stores anything more than throwing it out did. Roughly a million more meals will be provided to needy people through this program, and those meals will generally be better than others. There is a significant lack of certain items in food banks and soup kitchens, but this new law will help offset that by ensuring that a wider variety of foods end up in such places.
There are movements to introduce such laws across the European Union, and even efforts to do so in the United States. There are, after all, a lot of hungry people in the world, so throwing all that food out is, frankly, unacceptable.