Should grocers have to turn unsold food over to food banks?
Food insecurity is a real thing. Representatives of food banks across the U.S. have spoken about the increased numbers of people, many not fitting the typical profile of the poor, who show up looking for help with feeding themselves and their families. While grocery stores and restaurants are known for generosity in attempting to feed the needy, a lot of food winds up in dumpsters.
France faces similar challenges and the senate in that country has taken legislative action to address it. In a unanimous vote, legislators have restricted stores from disposing of food nearing its best-before and expiration dates. Instead, businesses will turn over the food to charities to provide meals for those who need it.
With the law, France becomes the first country in the world to mandate that food be turned over to charities. In the past, businesses have thrown away food or taken steps such as dousing it with bleach to avoid being sued by people who may become sick eating spoiled items.
Jacques Bailet, the head of a network of food banks in France, said supermarkets will be required to sign a donation agreement with charities. The result, he told The Guardian, will mean, “We’ll be able to increase the quality and diversity of food we get and distribute. In terms of nutritional balance, we currently have a deficit of meat and a lack of fruit and vegetables. This will hopefully allow us to push for those products.”
Carrefour, the largest supermarket chain in France, has welcomed the passage of the new law.
While most food wastage still occurs in the homes of consumers, it is estimated that roughly one-third of that making its way to landfills in France comes from food stores and restaurants.
- French law forbids food waste by supermarkets – The Guardian
- French supermarkets must now donate unsold food to charity – USA Today
Is there more that grocery stores and restaurants could be doing to address food insecurity in the U.S.? Should this be done on a voluntary basis or is legislation on the local, state or federal level needed?
Join the Discussion!
20 Comments on "Should grocers have to turn unsold food over to food banks?"
You must be logged in to post a comment.
You must be logged in to post a comment.
I’d prefer seeing voluntary initiatives to facilitate distribution of food to food banks. Perhaps this is one possible area for assistance that has been overlooked by those with the skills to make it happen. Even if there were legislation (which I don’t advocate) it would still take organization and management of the operations, i.e. people talent. That capability is out there is the private sector and more press about this may help bring about a reaction that can help eradicate hunger in our country.
Absolutely. Food service brands across the spectrum are missing a unique and invaluable opportunity to enhance their brand. Generation Z consumers may not be buying groceries today but they are certainly spending money in quick serve restaurants. These shoppers are as socially conscious as they are brand conscious. They respond to brands that stand for something that makes the world a better place (e.g., Tom’s, Love Your Melon). To this generation of current and future shoppers your brand needs to stand for something meaningful or you will become irrelevant. Capture their hearts and they’ll give you their wallets for years to come.
The incredible value of this opportunity will be lost if it becomes legislated. Those brands that seize this opportunity will reap the rewards.
As the article points out the concern for retailers and restaurants is that they will get sued should someone get sick eating the donated food. Think of all the effort to ensure food safety along the entire supply chain. Even then things can and do go wrong.
Now as the food gets close to code the restaurants and retailers would be required to donate food to entities that they have no control over, no knowledge of their food safety practices, etc. With the litigious environment in the U.S. restaurants and retailers concern is understandable.
If this was to be mandated then those donating the food should have be held harmless. This issue with that concept is if someone get sick or worse, who is someone going to sue — a food bank or the donator? The answer is the entity with the most money.
While the Department of Agriculture, the largest of government departments in terms of personnel, may want added job security, American businesses don’t need the burden of added regulations.
Grocers, manufacturers, restaurants and others within the food funnel have been and will continue to be enormously generous in contributions to food banks. Don’t make this country follow French law on this issue. It’s insanity.
For the U.S. any legislative mandated effort will create a backlash. The discussion though ought to focus on doing the right thing versus how we get there.
If we pursue what is good for society by creating benefits and increasing a company’s goodwill at the same time, then why not!
Definitely. The issue as Steve Montgomery points out is legal liability. If people donate food to the food bank and something happens downstream, there is no liability to the donor because it isn’t traceable. Right now near-expired food is sold at discount for quick sale, and expired food is disposed of. Perishables become a judgment call of when it is not fit for sale.
If the law like France is enacted in the U.S., it gives protection to the supermarkets as they donate goods with fewer liability issues.
Good Samaritan Law protection notwithstanding, the litigious nature of our society has forced retailers to adopt practices that end up wasting important nutrients. The French national regulations are a great step toward fixing this problem. But state or local laws would be a step in the wrong direction. Federal regulations might help in the U.S. as long as they are not 400 pages long.
Do I want another law? NO!
Is it the right thing to do to give the good away to organizations to feed those in need rather than throw it away? YES!
Will companies do the right thing without a law? NO! They will just throw the food away, it is cheaper that way. They are companies. They are not people.
On the less-cynical side, in NYC several charities have programs with restaurants where they pick up leftover food daily. This is obviously good, but still not all restaurants participate. Too sad. We need the law.
Will the government indemnify the stores against liability on that food? Should it? Unless they do, it will be really hard to make this happen. Everyone remembers banks being forced to buy other banks and then getting sued over what those banks had done before the acquisition. Telling stores that they have to give away food but leaving them with the liability on that food that is distributed seems equally unworkable.
That’s interesting, so does the retailer get a tax credit? Seems like a good deal if the charities pick up the food. I don’t think you need to force retailers to do this. Just give them the tax credit and leave it up to the local store manager to deal with it.
I am going to agree that this is a topic worthy of attention however, legislation? NO!
As pointed out by other comments on this thread, there are a lot of concerns that need to be addressed. I see a great opportunity for some private sector group that knows the ins and out to jump in.
With my 2 cents.
Absolutely no government legislation. Only voluntary. After all, we are not communists. We can provide incentives to increase the donations such as a premium tax write off for donating food. Hold grocers harmless on any food donated. Allow grocers to sell outdated product at a discount which to me is pretty much what a lot of dollar stores and salvage stores do anyway.
Less waste of food. The words give off a great warm feeling. It’s an admirable goal. There’s nothing to disagree with in that concept. Especially in our own homes, each of us should strive to do better about food waste and educating our children and spouses about it.
Government “forcing” stores to turn mass quantities of “expired” food over to “charities,” though, is a terrible idea which must be resisted. Kudos to Tom Redd, Roger Saunders, and Steve Montgomery (among others) for their thoughtful comments here today on why this is such a terrible idea.
Retailers should focus on data-driven buying and stocking strategies that leaves less food getting close to expiration dates in the first place. More grocers should noticeably mark down perishable products such as bakery breads, packaged meat, sour cream and cheese that are getting close to “the date.” Several stores near me do this and the products fly off the shelves.
Absolutely not. Many (dare I say most) companies do this on a voluntary basis as it is a good thing to do. If you make it mandatory, you just add another layer of cost and bureaucracy to organizations that are already stretched too thin. Additionally, you then have to deal with the question of liability for spoilage and any food born ailments that may occur.
Food insecurity? I find it hard to get behind any idea clothed in vague, alarmist language, but if the issue is some people don’t have enough income to properly feed themselves, then that should be addressed at the income level, not with some Federal diktat singling out retailers. What could possibly be the constitutional justification for such a law?
Interestingly, “the liability issue” is less concerning as the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act has been protecting donors since 1996.
Private groups DO exist: Feeding America; the Nation’s largest, has been recovering food for nearly 40 years — and there are countless others.
Tax incentives for food donations already exist. The only questions would be, would they continue as is, diminish, or be replaced with a fine for resistance?
While the need for stores to reduce their shrink is still credible, it remains, mostly, contrary to consumer demand; as American spending has yet to buy or eat ugly, forcing retailers to over cull to higher standards.
I don’t yet adopt the French policy — especially as it pertains to coordinating large format stores in remote locations— absent, yet, of effective receiving partners.
Food waste has always bothered me. However, the supermarket I worked for got sued because someone got sick on the food we donated to them. So, at least in the U.S., companies may be at risk.
I vaguely recall a song that said words to the effect “I don’t care how you get here, just get here.” Relating it to this discussion, my point is I don’t care how it happens as long as it happens. We should do what we can to feed the homeless and needy. Food not being sold should be given away to charities, not disposed of in a manner that it would not be edible.
This is NOT a communist dictatorship — YET!!! NO. We do not need laws about generosity. The very idea is disgusting.