It should be made illegal for supermarkets to throw away perfectly edible food, MPs say

Parliamentarians want shops to be forced to give ageing food to charity

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It should be made illegal for supermarkets to throw away perfectly edible food, a group of MPs has said.

A parliamentary motion calling on the Government to force businesses to donate food approaching its best-before date to charity has so far been signed by 117 representatives.

MPs argue that a successful law could be based off a new rule brought in by the French government.

That rule applies to supermarkets over 400 square metres in size and requires affected stores to sign a contract with a charity to take the food.

The UK currently throws away 15 million tonnes of food and drink every year, half of which is said to be edible.

At the same time, around one million people in Britain rely on food hand-outs to eat, a dramatic increase in recent years.

On the scrapheap: food discarded by a supermarket in central London

The early day motion calling for the law change is the most signed of its kind originating from this parliamentary session.

“This House notes that the UK throws away 15 million tonnes of food and drink every year and that half of this food and drink could have been consumed; further notes that if people stop wasting edible food, the environmental benefit would be the equivalent of taking one in four cars off the road,” the motion states.

“[Parliament] therefore calls on the Government to introduce legislation to ban supermarkets from throwing away food approaching its best-before dates and instead make it available to charities and food banks; and finally notes that such legislation has been successfully introduced in France and would have significant social and environmental benefits.”

MPs signed up to the cross-party plan include Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leadership candidate, Caroline Lucas, the Green Party’s only MP, and Keir Starmer, the former director of public prosecutions.

Large numbers of Scottish National Party representatives have also signed the proposal.

Nearly 200,000 people have also signed an online petition supporting the plans.

“France has already proven that this can work. So I’m asking for Parliament to take this campaign seriously and rush through a change in the law as soon as possible, before anyone else in the UK starves needlessly,” the petition’s author Lizzie Swarf wrote in an article earlier last month for the Independent.

The backbench support for the measures is unlikely to translate into Government action however – early day motions have no power to force ministers to act.

According to the latest figures from the Trussell Trust charity, the number of people given three days’ emergency food rose from 2,814 in 2005-06 to 61,468 in 2010-11, 346,992 in 2012-13 and 913,138 in 2013-14

These statistics include 582,933 adults and 330,205 children.

The Government’s children’s watchdog has today called on ministers to abandoned planned cuts to welfare that they say could see child poverty soar.