Italy tackles food waste with law encouraging firms to donate food

Restaurant customers will be encouraged to use doggy bags as part of move to save 1m tonnes of food a year

Tomatoes on sale at a market in Turin.
Credit photo: Rex/Shutterstock

Italy has made it easier for companies and farmers to donate food to charities and is encouraging greater use of “doggy bags” at restaurants as part of a legislative push to curb the epidemic of food waste.

A law passed in the Senate  will help Italy recover 1m tonnes of food a year for the needy, according to the law’s chief sponsor, and comes six months after a similar bill was passed in France.

Unlike the French law, however, which penalises supermarkets that fail to abide by new rules forcing them to donate unsold food to charities, the Italian law has instead focused on incentives that make it easier for companies to change their behaviour. It is estimated that Italy wastes about 5.1m tonnes of food a year.

The law, which was passed overwhelmingly in the Senate, has essentially relaxed regulations that made such donations cumbersome. It has clarified that food may still be donated even if it is past its sell-by date, and allows farmers to transfer produce to charities at no extra cost if it has not been sold. The law also opens the door for companies to donate food that has been mislabelled as long as it does not pose a safety risk.

But the move to encourage Italians to use doggy bags to take leftovers home from restaurants is perhaps one of the biggest cultural changes envisioned by the law. In many restaurants, and among many Italians, such requests are rare.

In a statement about the initiative last year, the environment under-secretary Barbara Degani said the introduction of the term “family bag”, as it is being called in Italy, represented an upgrade from the use of the words “doggy bag”, which in turn would help people free themselves of the notion that it was indecent to request to take home uneaten food. Instead, she said, it ought to be welcomed as virtuous behaviour.

It is estimated that about 15 tonnes of food that was heading to rubbish bins ended up feeding the homeless instead. Now, Bottura is bringing the same message to the Olympic Games in Rio, where he is setting up an “anti-waste” kitchen and cafeteria on the Rua da Lapa, with the aim of feeding people who live in Rio’s favelas, or slums.

Source: The guardian

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