France Named World Leader in Food Sustainability

Food Sustainability

France has been given the highest score in the latest Food Sustainability Index compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit and the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition Foundation. France achieved the top rating by ranking slightly above Japan and above other European countries like Germany, Spain and Sweden. France's success in curbing food waste is largely due to recent legislation designed to prevent supermarkets from trashing excess food and laws requiring that large restaurants allow patrons to take their leftovers home.

In 2012, the city of Herstal in Belgium passed a law requiring supermarkets to donate leftover food to local charities. Neighboring France took notice of this new rule and announced a new food initiative to dramatically slash food waste 50% by 2025. As part of this new plan, the French Parliament decided to institute penalties against grocery stores discarding food deemed edible for humans or animals. Each store partners with a local charity who takes the surplus food off of their hands and redistributes it as needed. Offenders caught violating this law face fines of up to $88,000 or two years in jail. The government also set its sights on the restaurant industry. French diners typically do not take leftovers home with them, so the government now requires that every French restaurant that serves more than 150 meals a day must offer patrons a container for any leftovers. These measures are intended to curb dining waste. Various surveys indicate that as many as 60% of Parisian diners do not finish their meals and 70% of rural French residents have never carried leftovers home with them.

While France led the Food Sustainability Index, Japan placed second. Japan's ranking is largely due to the effects of its 2001 Food Recycling Law. The law requires Japanese food manufacturers, retailers and restaurants to recycle their excess food into feed for animals or fertilizer for crops. The law applies to large companies that generate more than 100 tons of waster per year. Germany also scored well on the index partially due to the Agriculture Ministry's "Too Good for the Garbage" initiative to encourage Germans to reuse their unfinished food. Countries that scored at the bottom of the Food Sustainability Index include India and the United Arab Emirates.

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