French senate allows food shoppers to use own boxes

Food and drink items can now be sold in bulk, with consumers permitted to use their own containers, as long as they are suitable

The French senate has voted to allow consumers to use their own packaging and containers when shopping for food, or buying food and drink “to go”.

The majority decision - made on Wednesday September 26 - aims to reduce food waste, and to encourage shops to reduce packaging and sell more in bulk.

Ecology minister Brune Poirson has also approved the move.

It will mean that shops and takeaway outlets may remove disposable packaging for their goods, including for fresh food such as meat or fish.

Containers used by consumers must be suitable and clean enough to safely transport the food, the rules stipulate, and the consumer themselves will remain responsible for the hygiene of the container and the food from the point of sale onwards.

Any shop can legally refuse service to a customer whose container appears to be unsuitable or too dirty to safely hold the given food, the rules state.

Shops must display the rules visibly, and also list hygiene advice for consumers that are using reusable containers.

The clause states: “[Consumers] may ask to be served in a container brought themselves, provided that it is visibly clean and suitable for the nature of the purchased product.”

The rules have been designed to respond to worries from business owners, who had previously been uncertain of their responsibilities in case of contamination or poisoning from a product, due to a lack of good hygiene on the part of the consumer and/or the container used.

The clause continues: “The seller can refuse service if the suggested container is obviously unsuitable or dirty.”

There is another exception: products that are “under SIQO” - meaning that they have certain quality labels attached, such as “Red Label / Label Rouge”, or specific geographical origins specified - cannot currently be sold in bulk or packaged in this way.

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