French supermarkets will be required by law to sell their unsold produce on discount, give it to charity, or turn it into animal feed or compost, based on a new law being discussed.

Typically, French grocery stores dispose of any produce past its sell-by date, including putting bleach on it before throwing it out so that homeless people can’t use it. This has led to France wasting 20 kilos of food per person per year, a cost of about 12 to 20 billion euros ($13.4-$22.4 billion) annually, according to the Environment Ministry.

The law currently under debate would fine those who fail to comply with two years in jail and 75,000 euros ($83,850).

Business experts are questioning whether this kind of law is the best way to deal with wasted produce. “The industry is complex, and there’s no simple solution,” said University of Guelph professor Dr. Martin Gooch. He argued that the industry, not the government, should see to waste issues such as this.

In Canada, that’s what’s happening. In March, Loblaw, which operates about 2,300 stores in Canada, began selling imperfectly shaped potatoes and apples at a discount in Quebec and Ontario stores. And Metro, based in Quebec, has announced a “food recovery” program expected to send more than 10,000 kilos of food per week, including meat, to a food bank that serves more than 140,000 people. These initiatives exist on the industry level as opposed to being enforced by the government.

Ideally, of course, grocery stores should avoid waste altogether. This could save shoppers up to 10% in food costs and boost profits by 5% to 12%, according to research by Value Chain Management.

In the meantime, France at least seems likely to go with a government-led program of waste reduction, with other European Commission member states being encouraged to develop national food waste prevention strategies in the hopes of reducing waste by at least 30% by 2025.

%d bloggers like this: