Tuesday May 26, 2015

French politician forces supermarkets to donate unwanted food. Now he wants the world to follow suit

French politician Arash Derambarsh pushed for a law that makes it illegal for supermarkets to throw out edible food.

French politician Arash Derambarsh pushed for a law that makes it illegal for supermarkets to throw out edible food. (Twitter photo)

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Arash Derambarsh is a small-town politician with an appetite to be a global player.

The French city council member has just convinced France's National Assembly to force supermarkets to stop throwing out perfectly good food and start donating it to the needy.

It all started in his home town of Courbevoie, north-west of Paris, where he says supermarkets were throwing out on average, 40 kilograms of food a night.


(CBC )

"It was amazing when I saw that...It was scandalous." he tells As it Happens co-host, Carol Off.

"I said to them, 'you have to be responsible. If you don't want to be responsible, we are fighting  against you. We are having this law in France because we want the supermarkets to be responsible.'"

He convinced shops in Courbevoie to donate their food to homeless people -- something that previously wasn't done because any organizations getting the food had to have a "cold room" to keep it fresh.

To get around that, he and a team of volunteers go to supermarkets a half hour before they close to collect the food and immediately distribute it.

"No one will get sick if they eat it right away," he says.

He adds that one of the worst aspects of the food waste issue in France was that supermarkets used to dump bleach on their food waste to keep needy people from eating it.

"How can you speak with a person that they throw bleach on food, who know that you have got homeless in front of your supermarket, and [these people are] going to eat the food in the garbage. And you, the supermarket, can go in your bed and sleep? It's not possible,"  he says.

He built on his local success with a petition that called for a nation-wide law that would make it illegal for French supermarkets to destroy edible food.

The bill passed earlier this week with unanimous support.

Derambarsh says that is an indication that other countries might also buy in -- taking his policy global.

"They know what I propose is a good idea, (it's) very easy to make it."  

To that end, Mr. Derambarsh is working with the group ONE,  founded by Irish musician Bono. They will take the food waste issue to the United Nations late this year, when it addresses millennium development goals.

Derambarsh says his goal as a politician has always been to help the needy.

"For a human person the most terrible thing is be thirsty and hungry and I will fight against it," he says.