Could the U.S. follow France’s lead and force grocery stores to donate food waste?
In a unanimous decision, France recently passed legislation that banned supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food, and the U.S. is rallying to follow suit.
A new law unanimously passed in France that will make it illegal to discard unsold food and obligating supermarkets to donate their extra food to charities. The intended goal of this law was to crack down on food waste while fighting against hunger.
Approximately one-third of the world’s food goes uneaten each year. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, we saw $161 billion in food waste in 2010 – surmounting to a whopping 133 billion pounds. Ten percent (10%) of this waste came from grocery stores.
In the fight against world hunger and excessive food waste, it appears the benefits of such a law far outweigh the costs. Yes, grocery stores may have to allocate time and energy toward packaging and shipping unsold food to charities and align their chains accordingly. Yes, charities would have to be able to accommodate the large number of supplies as well. However, despite some logistical issues, the overall concept is solid and a step in the right direction.
Is it LEGAL for the U.S. to force supermarkets to donate unsold food to charity?
What about the U.S.? Would a law such as this impede on our business’ liberties and the free enterprise system? Could there be an uproar if supermarkets were legally bound to donating unsold food to charities and if they did not comply they could be fined to the tune of an almost $85,000, like in France?
At this point, U.S. law only encourages supermarkets to donate their unsold goods for charitable causes and compost production.
U.S. encourages, but does not force!
According to U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of the Chief Economist, a number of federal laws motivate food donation by providing liability protection to donors or tax incentives.
Liability Issues and Tax Incentives
What if the food incites illness?
Such legislation includes the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. As long as the donor has not acted with negligence or intentional misconduct, the company is not liable of damage incurred as a result of illness.
Internal Revenue Code 170(e)(3) offers tax deductions to businesses that donate fit and wholesome food qualified for nonprofit organizations serving the poor and needy.
The U.S. Federal Food Donation Act of 2008 also encourages federal agencies and contractors of those agencies to donate excess wholesome food to eligible nonprofit organizations to feed food-insecure people in the U.S.
Does a food waste law exist anywhere in the U.S.?
On the city level, yes, there are laws that require businesses by law to separate food from other trash in cities such as New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Seattle.
The city of Phoenix began launching a food waste program in 2013, attempting to collect usable food waste and turn it into compost.
If the U.S. were to attempt to pass a law that mandated the donation of unsold, wholesome food, there would have to be some stipulations involved, i.e., what constitutes ‘wholesome food,’ who is in charge of processing the food, what charities qualify, what foods qualify, etc.
What’s obvious, however, is the excess of unused food that gets thrown into our garbage each year.
The numbers are staggering, and we can make an effort, even individually, to reduce our carbon footprint.
What can we do? Recycle. Don’t overstock. Just buy what you need. Donate wholesome food that you will not eat. Create compost. Contribute to advocacy groups that encourage such change. Maybe these simple steps will help the U.S. take more initiative in the fight against hunger and food waste.
Ella Magers, the Sexy Fit Vegan®, not only leads a healthy plant-based lifestyle, but also makes efforts to spread the word about both consumption and ‘green’ recycling of food waste (i.e. what to do with banana peels, corn husks, etc.). Check out her upcoming Veggie Education Happy Hour Event in Miami Beach on Saturday, June 27, at 2:30 in the SobeKick Gym.
Guest Blog Post by Jason Weiss, Esq.