‘Sell ugly fruit’: How Spain plans to stamp out food waste

Spain has introduced a new draft law to minimise food waste, forcing shops to sell ugly fruit and vegetables, among other measures.

A market seller in Spain
Spain aims to cut down on food waste. Photo: CESAR MANSO / AFP

The Council of Ministers approved Monday a draft law to combat food waste, making sure that shops promote the sale of “ugly, imperfect or unsightly” products that are ripe and ready for consumption, as well as to encourage sales of local, organic and bulk foods.

This was announced by the Minister of Agriculture, Luis Planas, during the press conference after the Council of Ministers.

The project for the Prevention of Food Loss and Waste consists of 15 plans of action, which seek to produce a drastic reduction in food waste.

According to data from the Ministry of Agriculture, in 2020 Spanish households threw away more than 1,300 million kilos of uneaten food, which is 31 kilograms per litre per capita.

With this new law, the Spanish government ratifies its commitment to comply with the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations 2030 Agenda.  

READ ALSO: Spain to ban plastic packaging for food and vegetables from 2023

Food donation

One of the points in the government’s plan is to ensure the donation of food with sufficient shelf life to non-profit companies or food banks. Food industries, commercial establishments, as well as hotels and restaurants will be forced to sign agreements with receiving organisations. If companies do not comply with the new rules, four types of sanctions have been introduced that can be fine businesses between €6,001 to €150,000. 

Transformation of foods 

The second point calls for shops and businesses to transform unsold foods, which are still ripe for consumption, such as making fruit into jams and juices. When they are not suitable for human consumption, food must be used as by-products for animal feed, quality compost for agricultural use, or for obtaining biogas or other types of fuel. 

Expiration and best before dates 

Another of the new obligations will be to separate and clearly differentiate products which are close to their best before date and sell them at lower prices or donate them. It also states that businesses should promote products whose best before dates have expired, if they’re still fit for consumption.  

Takeaway food at restaurants and catering services

Hotels and other catering will also have to offer their customers the possibility of taking away food that they have not finished and will have need to sure they show this option on the menu. For this, they must have suitable reusable containers.

Institutions such as health and educational centers or residences that offer catering or dining services must also have programmes for the prevention and reduction of food waste and report on how much food is thrown away.

Selling ugly fruit

Stores with a surface area of ​​400 meters or more will have to promote the sale of products considered “ugly, imperfect or unsightly”. Along these lines, they will have to encourage the sale of seasonal, local, ecological, and environmentally sustainable foods and improve information on how to use them.


Public administrations will be obliged to carry out informative and promotional campaigns to encourage responsible food consumption and promote the prevention and reduction of food loss and waste, as well as to draw up good practice guides aimed at improving food management.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Police operation targets illegal water tapping in Spain

More than 130 people were arrested or placed under investigation for illegal water tapping last year, Spain’s Guardia Civil police said on Wednesday following a huge operation.

Police said most of their operations took place “in fragile and vulnerable areas such as the Doñana natural park”
Police said most of their operations took place “in fragile and vulnerable areas such as the Doñana natural park” in Andalusia. Photo: CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP

During the year-long operation, “133 people were arrested or investigated for extracting water through more than 1,533 illegal infrastructure devices”, the police’s environmental unit said in a statement.

A similar operation in 2019 had targeted 107 people.

Spain is one of the European countries most at risk from the impact of drought caused by global warming, scientists say.

Water usage issues are often at the heart of heated political debates in Spain where intensive agriculture plays an important role in the economy.

Police said most of their operations took place “in fragile and vulnerable areas such as the Doñana natural park” in the southern Andalusia region, one of Europe’s largest wetlands and a Unesco World Heritage bird sanctuary.

They were also operating in “in the basins of Spain’s main rivers”.

In Doñana, police targeted 14 people and 12 companies for the illegal tapping of water for irrigation, a police spokesman said.

Ecologists regularly raise the alarm about the drying up of marshes and lagoons in the area, pointing the finger at nearby plantations, notably growing strawberries, which are irrigated by illegally-dug wells.

“The overexploitation of certain aquifers for many reasons, mainly economic, constitutes a serious threat to our environment,” the Guardia Civil said.

The European Court of Justice rapped Spain over the knuckles in June for its inaction in the face of illegal water extraction in Donana which covers more than 100,000 hectares (250,000 acres) and is home to more than 4,000 species, including the critically endangered Iberian lynx.

According to the government’s last official estimate, which dates back to 2006, there were more than half a million illegal wells in use.

But in a 2018 study, Greenpeace estimated there were twice as many, calculating that the quantity of stolen water was equivalent to that used by 118 million people — two-and-a-half times the population of Spain.

Spanish NGO SEO/Birdlife also on Wednesday raised the alarm about the “worrying” state of Spain’s wetlands.