‘Doggy bag’ law introduced in France

Doggy bags have long been frowned upon in France as an affront to gastronomic etiquette, but restaurants are now legally obliged to provide them if requested by diners, in a move to cut food wastage.

The new regulation, which came into force on New Year’s Day, applies to restaurants serving more than 180 meals a day.

It is aimed at encouraging the French to overcome their reluctance to eat their leftover pot au feu or coq au vin at home the next day.

The government wants to reduce the seven million tonnes of food thrown away each year in a country where 3.5 million people depend on free meals handed out by charities.

The catering trade is responsible for 14 per cent of this waste but most French diners never ask for doggy bags for fear of appearing ill-mannered, stingy or unhygienic.

“This is something that won’t catch on in France,” said food writer Franck Pinay-Rabaroust of the gastronomy magazine Atabula. “Taking leftovers home from a restaurant is unusual here and often frowned upon as an American custom. That may change a bit now that better designed bags are being made that look more chic, but there’s a cultural obstacle.”

A recent opinion poll showed that 75 per cent of French people are not hostile to the idea of doggy bags, but 70 per cent have never taken leftovers home.

Xavier Denamur, the owner of four restaurants in the ultra-chic Marais neighbourhood of Paris, said his eateries only give out two or three doggy bags a day, mainly to foreigners.

“We don’t serve huge portions they way they do in America and we hardly throw anything away because we cook everything to order so we never have large quantities of pre-cooked food,” he told the Telegraph.

“This new law is useless because it won’t really address the problem of wastage. It would be better to pass a law to stop restaurants serving industrially prepared meals that go off quickly.”

Many chefs detest “le doggy bag” – there is no French term for it – because they think it implies that their food is only fit for dogs.

The hotel and restaurant industry union UMIH has been trying to promote the use of another franglais term, “le gourmet bag,” to encourage the practice.