France is cracking down on food waste with a new law banning big supermarkets from destroying unsold but edible food on pain of fines and even jail sentences.
Under legislation passed Thursday, as part of a broader law on energy and the environment, supermarkets will be forced to donate any such food to charity or for use as animal feed or farming compost.
All large-sized supermarkets will have to sign contracts with a charity group to facilitate food donations. Failure to comply could expose market managers to two years in jail and fines of 75,000 euros, or $83,850.
"It's scandalous to see bleach being poured into supermarket dustbins along with edible foods," Socialist member of parliament Guillaume Garot, who sponsored the bill, said.
Food lost by farmers, processors, restaurants, retailers and ultimately, consumers, is seen as a growing problem with economic, social and environmental implications.
The European Commission has proposed that member states develop national food waste prevention strategies with the aim of reducing such waste by at least 30 percent by 2025.
The French federation for commerce and distribution (FCD) said it was a mistake to target just big supermarkets under the new law, which they said accounted for only 5 percent of total food waste.
French people throw away 20 kilos of food per person per year, costing an estimated $13.4 to $22.4 billion annually, according to the Environment Ministry.
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation has said that a third of all food produced worldwide — some 1.3 billion tons worth $750 billion — is thrown out each year, wasting water equivalent to the annual flow of Russia's Volga River.
Food wasted in developed nations often ends up in greenhouse gas-emitting landfills, while millions of people elsewhere go hungry.
In Europe, Germany has been a leader on the issue. In 2012, the German government launched a "too good for the trash" campaign and the country has also pioneered "food-sharing", using the Internet to distribute produce recovered from store rubbish while still in good condition.
French supermarket Intermarche has developed a program to sell misshapen fruit and vegetables at a discount in an effort to reduce waste.
The new French bill is to be voted on by France's lower house of parliament on May 26 and then be sent to the Senate.