Rights activist wants retailers to give unsold food to charity

RIA Novosti/Vladimir Vyatkin
A member of the Russian presidential council for Human Rights has asked the government to prepare a bill that would ban retailers from turning unsold food into waste, and order them to send it to farms or charity organizations.

Yana Lantratova sent the Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade a letter in which she claimed the ban on destroying unsold foodstuffs would help socially unprotected groups, and also support farmers who would spend less on fodder.

In the letter, quoted by the Izvestia daily on Friday, the activist quoted the Russian state statistics agency as saying that in 2013 Russian companies threw away almost two billion tons of unsold alimentary products, which amounts to about a third of all waste.

The future law should target first of all supermarkets and large companies specializing in public catering. They will be banned from destroying unsold goods. Instead, they will have to send it to charity groups that help the poor, the unemployed, disabled people and pensioners. The companies will be forbidden to charge money for these operations. Another possibility is to send unsold food to farms so it can be used as animal fodder.

Lantratova also said in her letter that the practice has already been tested in various foreign countries. A week ago, France passed a law ordering large supermarkets to enter agreements with charity groups and send them all unsold food, not passed its sell-by date. Food that is past a firm expiration date would go to farms to be used as animal feed or compost. Managers of companies who refuse to comply could face heavy fines or up to two years in prison.

READ MORE: Adieu to food waste: French govt forces supermarkets to donate to charity

Heads of Russian business groups were very skeptical about Lantratova’s idea.

The head of the National Trade Association, Vadim Zuikov, called the initiative dangerous as goods close to expiration date can pose a threat to health. Besides, he noted that most supermarkets buy food in quantities they can sell, especially given the current difficult state of the economy.

The president of the Russian Restaurateurs’ Association, Igor Bukharov, also said that throwing away food meant a loss in profits for companies and this meant that restaurants and catering enterprises would simply have nothing to give to charity, even if the suggested law is passed.

On the other hand, the head of the Christian charity network Noah, Yemelyan Sosinskiy, told reporters his organization was ready to accept food passed it’s sell-by date. The chairman of the Agricultural Cooperatives’ Association, Vyacheslav Telegin, said farmers could accept food that had already gone off because “animals are not choosy.”