Ugly fruit and doggy bags, part of a new law to prevent food waste

Supermarkets and farmers could face hefty fines if they fail to comply with rules to reduce the 1.3 million tonnes of food thrown away each year

ALFONSO TORICES MADRID.

A new draft anti-waste law has been approved by the government and will now make its way through the parliamentary process, in an attempt to reduce the 1.3 million tonnes of food that are thrown away in Spain each year (31.3 kilos per inhabitant).

When the law comes into force, supermarkets will have to sell 'ugly' fruit and vegetables - those which are perfectly good to eat but are misshapen or have imperfections - at reduced prices.

They will also have to offer food items which are nearing their expiry date at lower prices, display them separately and provide clear information to customers as to why the prices have been reduced.

The stores will also be obliged to donate any unsold items to food banks and other charities, instead of throwing it away. If it is not possible to donate surplus fruit and vegetables, they can be used to make juice, jam or soups. Any items which are no longer suitable for human consumption will have to be used for animal food. In some cases, it will be used as compost or biofuels.

The government says the reason behind the move is not only to reduce the waste of natural resources but also to prevent greenhouse gas emissions and unnecessary waste and find an ethical response to hunger and malnutrition, something that affects 1.6 billion people.

Doggy bags to be compulsory

Under this new law, restaurants and bars will also be obliged to offer customers the chance to take their uneaten food home with them, and will have to provide a suitable container for them to do so. The only exception to this will be establishments which offer buffet meals.

The anti-waste regulations will apply to all agents in the food supply chain, from growers and farmers to industry and distribution: they will all have to draw up a plan to prevent surplus and waste. Any that fail to do so could face fines of between 2,001 and 60,000 euros, or as much as 500,000 euros for repeated offences.

The companies will also have to certify every year how much waste they have produced.

"There is no food product more expensive than the one that ends up in the rubbish," said the Minister for Agriculture, Luis Planas, when he presented the new law.

In fact, a survey carried out by his ministry showed that 75 per cent of households in Spain throw food away, including fruit, vegetables, bread and milk.