MSP calls for ban on supermarket food waste

Stuart McMillan (pictured right), Member of Scottish Parliament for West Scotland, has written to the Scottish Government, calling on it to ban large supermarkets in Scotland from disposing of unsold food items.

In his letter, which was sent to Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and Environment Richard Lochhead on Tuesday (26 May), McMillan asks for ‘serious consideration’ to be given to implementing a new law that requires large supermarkets to donate unsold food to charities or use it as ‘animal feed’.

This would follow the format of a new piece of French legislation that requires supermarkets over 400 square metres in size to enter into formal agreements with food redistribution charities by July 2016. Under the proposed law, any food past its sell-by date could also be sent for composting, anaerobic digestion or for use as animal feed – rather than disposal.

Those who do not comply will be liable for penalties including fines of up to €75,000 (£53,000) or two years’ imprisonment.

It is hoped that the French law will reduce food waste arisings and prevent supermarkets from destroying or throwing away edible food.

‘Scandalous that supermarkets throw away perfectly edible food’

MSP calls for ban on supermarket food waste

McMillan wrote: ‘I have been watching with interest as France pass[es] legislation making it illegal for large supermarkets to throw away or destroy unsold food…. With large amounts of food often being thrown away and waste by supermarket chains jn Scotland, particularly at a time when many are relying on food banks to help feed their families, I am writing to ask if the Scottish Government will now consider similar legislation.

‘Mass wastage of food which could be donated to food banks to help those in need in local communities is not only morally wrong, it is also damaging to the environment. Thus such a law would not only very importantly help those who require assistance, but would also play a huge part in making Scotland greener.’

He concluded: ‘At a time when the number of people relying on food banks is rising, I find it scandalous that supermarkets find it acceptable to throw away perfectly edible food.

‘As politicians, and as a Government, we must do all that we can to tackle this issue. I believe such a law, similar to that of France, would be a massive step in doing so.’

Calls for UK-wide law

A petition to implement a similar ban across the whole of the UK has already gained 130,000 signatures.

Initiated by Lizzie Swarf on campaign website 38 Degrees, the petition asks Prime Minister David Cameron to ‘make supermarkets donate their leftover products that are still safe to eat, to food banks’ and ‘encourage existing customers to donate towards a delivery service to needy people in their area on the delivery run’.

Swarf pleads: ‘Please consider this idea very seriously as it is based upon pure logic and the sharing of resources that are currently simply wasted’.

Food redistribution charities have tentatively welcomed the calls for a UK-wide introduction of a law, with charity FareShare saying that the move is an “interesting development in the debate around food waste”, especially as the “majority of surplus food is further up the supply chain”.

A spokesperson for the charity added: “In order to successfully divert surplus food from waste, food companies across the whole supply chain must establish processes and systems that anticipate and identify surplus food within their operations and make it available for charities such as FareShare.

“This approach brings about significant environmental, social and economic benefits.”

FareShare has previously estimated that up to 400,000 tonnes of surplus food thrown away by the food and drink industry in the UK is edible and in date and could be redirected to create 800 million meals for the 5.8 million people in ‘deep poverty’ (around 13 meals per person).

Read Stuart McMillan’s letter to the Scottish Government, or find out more about France’s supermarket food waste ban.

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