The Italian government has overwhelmingly backed a new set of laws aimed at cutting down the vast amounts of food wasted in the country each year.

A bill passed by 181 Senators will encourage families to use "doggy bags" to take home unfinished food after eating out and removes hurdles for farmers and supermarkets seeking to donate food to charity.

The goal to cut the five million tonnes of food wasted every year by at least one million tonnes was only opposed by two Senators and abstained from by one when put to a vote in Italy's upper house on 2 August.

Ministers have said that food waste is costing Italy's business and households more than €12 billion (£10 billion) a year, or about 1 per cent of GDP.


And since the country has a public debt of 135 per cent - a figure which has increased by a fifth since 2003 - and an unemployment rate of an estimated 20 per cent with millions of Italians in poverty, the levels of food waste are considered unjustifiable.

Indeed, Italy's highest court ruled only three months ago that stealing small amounts of food because of hunger was not a crime.

The new laws seek to make donating food easier by allowing businesses to record donations in a simple form every month, according to La Repubblica. Sanctions for giving away food past its sell-by date have been removed, and business owners will pay less waste tax the more they donate.

Farmers will also be able to donate unsold produce to charities without incurring extra costs.

Innovative ways to store foods in transit to prevent rotting and lengthen their life on the shelf, as well as a public campaign about food waste, will also be developed with a €1m grant from the agricultural ministry.

Another €1m will back a "doggy bag" campaign, in which families will be encouraged to take home unfinished food home after a regional pilot scheme proved a success.

The UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) has said 40 per cent of all food is wasted across Europe. World-wide, the figure is lower at one third.

"The food currently wasted in Europe could feed 200 million people," said the FAO.


Similar measures have been passed elsewhere, albeit with a more punitive bent.

French supermarket owners now face fines of up to €75,000 (£62,800) if they do not sign contracts with food donation charities.