France’s Fight Against Food Waste.

    • By,
      Ranjeeta Sinha – Admission Advisor, Kautilya

Imagine going into a supermarket, purchasing three shopping bags of food, and then tossing one in the trash right away. Statistically, this is the current situation with our food. Approximately 33% of all food produced for human consumption goes to waste. Wasting food means squandering valuable resources like land, water, and fuel used in production and transportation without reaping the benefits of nourishing people. Food waste in landfills also leads to increased greenhouse gas emissions. Food waste continues to be a significant challenge in Europe and globally.

In France, around 10 million tonnes of food are wasted annually, costing about 16 billion euros. Everyone in the food chain plays a role when it comes to waste. Losses are a common occurrence at every stage of food processing. According to a study carried out by ADEME in France, the distribution of food losses is as follows: 32% during production, 21% during processing, 14% during distribution, and 33% during consumption. These losses directly affect our natural resources. The production of all this surplus merchandise has required extensive farmland and significant amounts of water. Moreover, the surplus food production results in substantial greenhouse gas emissions.

France remains at the forefront of the Food Sustainability Index, a research project involving 34 countries by The Economist Intelligence Unit and the Barilla Centre for Food & Nutrition Foundation. This is a result of the strict policies on food waste, sustainable farming methods, and the nutritious diets of the people. The French government is working on implementing solutions and plans to address food waste.

The government is dedicated to promoting awareness at every stage of the food chain and across all industries. Various organisations, associations, and companies, regardless of their size, including start-ups, are adopting various strategies. One such strategy involves donating surplus food to charities and food banks, which helps provide millions of meals to those in need. There are several noteworthy initiatives and organisations in France that are dedicated to addressing the issue of food waste. Too Good To Go is an app connecting consumers with restaurants, bakeries, supermarkets, and hotels with surplus food. It enables users to buy meals at discounted prices before they are discarded. Le Pain Quotidien has introduced a surplus food donation initiative, where any remaining food is gathered and distributed to local organisations or made available at discounted prices through collaborations with apps like Too Good To Go.

Les Gueules Cassées is an association that focuses on reducing food waste by encouraging the consumption of fruits and vegetables that may not meet cosmetic standards but are still perfectly good to eat. They work together with supermarkets and farmers to offer these products at discounted prices.

These are just a few examples of the numerous initiatives and organisations that address food waste in France. With the help of various policies and organisations, France has become the first nation to prohibit the disposal of unsold non-food items. Companies are now required to find alternative solutions for their unsold goods instead of disposing of them in landfills or incinerating them.

The supermarket’s involvement in the fight against food wastage:

Carrefour, a prominent participant in the French grocery retail industry, has recently been awarded the national anti-waste label by the French government. Furthermore, it demonstrates the company’s commitment to adopting new regulations to reduce food waste. Carrefour plays a vital role in supporting the Consumer Goods Forum’s objective of reducing food waste by 50% by 2025. Carrefour’s efforts to address food waste have garnered attention across Europe, highlighting their significant impact. Carrefour is implementing a comprehensive waste management strategy at its stores. This includes optimising stock levels to align with customer demand, offering discounts on products nearing expiration, exploring opportunities to repurpose items, collaborating with food charities and discounted grocery stores, and prioritising waste recycling. By working closely with suppliers, Carrefour aims to enhance the longevity of its private-label products.

The emergence of solidarity-based Anti-waste:

A minimum-wage worker at a supermarket in Marseille in 2011 was nearly fired when a coworker reported him for stealing six melons and two lettuces from a container. The man was 59 years old and a father of six. In the past, authorities have apprehended individuals and prosecuted them for stealing yoghurt, cheese platters and pre-made pizzas from the trash. Many low-income families, students, and the homeless have taken to secretly rummaging through store trash cans at night, hoping to find edible items that have passed their best-before dates.

To address this problem, in 2016, a new law was implemented requiring large grocery stores in France to donate their edible food rather than discard it. Only grocery stores larger than 4,300 square feet are exempt from the law, meaning it applies to approximately 2,700 stores nationwide. The government is unafraid to take action against those who break the rules. Stores violating this law may be fined, and managers could be imprisoned for up to two years.The French Federation of Food Banks, which facilitates the transfer of food from grocery stores to charities, is optimistic about the progress of the legal initiatives aimed at reducing food waste and hunger.


Food waste has been a significant concern for certain groups and countries for years. Based on a recent report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, it is alarming to note that approximately one-third of all food produced is lost or wasted every year. Food waste is a global issue that affects many countries. France actively engages in a comprehensive strategy encompassing legal actions, partnerships, educational initiatives, and a strong dedication to reducing waste. The country’s goal is to establish a more sustainable and responsible system for resource utilisation by considering both food and non-food items. Countless groundbreaking ideas and solutions are being continuously developed, all to reshape the future by 2025.

*The Kautilya School of Public Policy (KSPP) takes no institutional positions. The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author(s) and do not reflect the views or positions of KSPP.