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Spain introduces new legislation and steep fines to tackle food waste in supermarkets and restaurants

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2 min read
AUTHOR: Fiona Holland
Outdoor cafe and restaurants near Mercado Central-Valencia, Spain

Spanish supermarkets and restaurants could be fined between €2,000 and €60,000 (£1,700 and £51,000) for wasting food under new legislation that’s been recently approved by the government.

Restaurants must give customers doggy bags so they can take leftovers home instead of throwing the food away.

Businesses who repeatedly throw out surplus food after the initial fine could be charged up to €500,000 (£425,000).

Approximately 1,300 million tonnes of food is wasted each year in Spain, according to the country’s agricultural, fisheries and food minister, Luis Planas, which equates to 31kg of food per person, said the Ministry of Agriculture data from 2020.

Research from the Food and Agriculture Organisation has found that there is enough food wasted in Europe to feed around 200 million people. According to the United Nations, 17% of total food production worldwide goes to waste.  

The new law will also encourage Spanish supermarkets and restaurants to reach out to local charities and food banks to figure out ways to use up their waste.

Supermarkets will also be allowed to give away food that has gone past its sell-by date, and restaurants will be encouraged to develop seasonal dishes.

Where businesses have fruit that has become too ripe to be sold to customers, they are advised to turn them into jams and juices. Once the produce has reached the stage of being inedible, it should be composted or used in animal feed, biofuel, or fertilisers.

The new legislation would apply to all food stores larger than 1,300-square-metres.

While a lot of food is thrown out in households, the government has said it will implement new educational campaigns to reduce wastage in the home.

The bill, which Planas has described as “a pioneering legal instrument to prevent wastefulness”, is predicted to be enforced by 2023.

“The law is intended for everyone in the food chain, the primary producer, the industry, the distribution and the families”, Planas said during a cabinet meeting.

As part of the new legislation, the Spanish Council of Ministers will also give direct support to the agricultural and livestock sector and invest €176.5 million to develop waste management in the country’s autonomous communities and cities.

The legislation follows in the steps of other European countries like Italy and France, which both introduced laws in 2016 to incentivise donating surplus food. In France, throwing out unsold produce is also a fineable offence.

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