THE BLOG
09/28/2016 12:10 pm ET Updated Sep 29, 2017

Do We Really Need A Food Waste Police?

Recently, the laws against food waste are starting to gain momentum. France and Italy have already implemented the laws against food waste. The governments in UK, Finland, Canada and Chile are already looking into it. And several large petitions are set off to influence the EU politicians in hope of implementing the laws agains food waste all across the EU.

But if we take a closer look into these laws, one might wonder: is the "Food Waste Police" the right approach in the fight against food waste?

Arash Derambarsh is a very sympathetic and enthusiastic French politician, whom I've had a privilege of speaking with in several panel debates at congresses and food summits, the recent one was an international food summit in Copenhagen "Better Food for More People" arranged by the Danish Ministry for the Environment and Food. Mr. Derambarsh is the "father" of the law against food waste, which was adopted in France. And he is going an excellent job in that field, I might add.

Due to this new French law, all larger supermarkets and hypermarkets in France are obliged to give all of their surplus food to the local charities - if not, they will be fined 75,000 Euro - or even face a jail sentence.

The new French law caused massive international media attention and thousands of cheerful remarks on the social media. The "big bad supermarkets" will at last be punished, the surplus food will be redirected to the needy and the problem with food waste will be solved once and for all.

Well, will it really?

In my recent joint opinion editorial co-written with the Minister for Environment and Food of Denmark Mr. Esben Lunde Larsen and Minister for Energy, Utilities and Climate of Denmark Mr. Lars Christian Lilleholt, we addressed the French law. During the last 8 years, Denmark has already made a tremendous progress in the fight against food waste - and the Danish Government, industry, retailers and NGO's are not very keen on this French law.

The French law looks interesting, but when we zoom in, it dosen't really solve the problem with food waste.

If a law like this will be implemented in a country like Denmark, the charities will literally drown in food. The supermarkets will be obliged to give the charities all their surplus food, in fear of fines or going to jail - and this will leave the charities stranded with huge amounts of surplus food and vey small resources to make sure that the food will be redirected to the needy citizens. Already today, these Danish charities have very limited funding, infrastructure and resources. By receiving some over 163,000 tones of supermarkets' annual surplus food, they will have much difficulties with saving these huge amounts of food from going to waste.

Thus, the problem is only pushed further on down the value chain and the root cause - the overproduction of food - is not addressed.

This makes the law against food waste a short term solution.

By that I am not implying that we must stop helping the needy and socially disadvantaged citizens with access to free surplus food. We must do whatever we can. Since 2010, the Stop Wasting Food movement Denmark and partners rescued and redirected over 250 tons of free surplus food to charities in Denmark. Good free, surplus food ended in people's bellies instead of going to waste.

If we take a look from the helicopter perspective, the fight against food waste today counts a large amount of symptom treatment initiatives, from food waste events to food waste supermarkets and food waste restaurants. All these initiatives are good, important and awareness raising. However, they do not address the root cause.

A lot of food waste must be generated in order to keep a food waste supermarket or a food waste restaurant operating. And thus, the overproduction is still there, every day, year by year - and the fight against food waste itself is becoming an industry.

But if we really need fulfill the UN Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 - to halve per capita all the food losses and waste by 2030 - (and that's just in 14 years!) - we must take a look at the rood cause, we must address the prevention of food waste.

Implementing a law against food waste and thus pushing the food waste further down the value chain will never create a long lasting solution.