Pascal Xicluna / agriculture.gouv.fr

In February 2016, France become the first country in the world to establish a strong law against food waste. Adopted unanimously by both chambers of French Congress, the law strengthens the commitment of public policy makers to reduce by half loss and waste of food by 2025.

Its principle measure consists of requiring each supermarket of more than 400 square meters in surface area to create a partnership with a food charity organization to donate its unsold food products instead of throwing them out or destroying them.

More than two years after the law came into force, the positive effects are obvious: according to the French branch of the United Nations World Food Programme, “since it came into force, the law has increased donations to food aid associations by 22%.”

In the wake of the law, several thousand associations empowered by the government and several startups and businesses specialized in managing unsold food products have organized operations to collect and redistribute food products alongside distributors. The French example has since been copied by several nations, including Italy, Peru, and Finland. Numerous other countries have also expressed close interest in the model and are looking at putting in place an equivalent law.

In 2018, France took a new step forward in its anti-food waste fight. Strengthening the effort against food waste found itself at the heart of third section of the law to find balance between trade relations in the agricultural sector and healthy and sustainable food systems. The goal is to extend the framework of application of the law against food waste to institutional catering (in places like hospital and school cafeterias) and to the agro-food industry, which should donate their unused food products to charities.

Institutional catering, which represents approximately three billions meals served per year, was identified as a major actor in the fight against food insecurity and in limiting the environmental and economic consequences of food waste. To prevent waste in this industry, the law implements mandatory diagnostic tools and spread tools to aid in planning meals.

The government also encourages pursuing actions as part of the national pact against food waste, of which five ministries are signatories as well as more than 55 partner organizations, which represent the entirety of the food chain.