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‘Doggy bag’ law comes into force in France

AFP / Miguel Medina | A waiter carries plates of food in the restaurant "Le Mesturet" in Paris

Long seen as an affront to dining etiquette, doggy bags may finally become an established part of eating out in France with restaurants across the country now legally obliged to provide them.

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The new law, which came into effect on New Year’s Day, is part of a drive to cut down on the vast amount of food wastage seen in the country each year.

The French restaurant industry alone accounts for some one million tonnes of food waste annually, according to government figures.

But from now on, larger dining establishments – those with around 150 covers a day and more – will have to provide a doggy bag or take-away box for any customer that asks for one.

It forms part of an initiative launched by the French government in 2013, with the aim of reducing food wastage by 50 percent by the year 2025.

Despite the law change, getting the average French diner to carry their leftover coq au vin or boeuf bourguignon home with them could prove a challenge, however.

While doggy bags are a mainstay of dining out in countries around the world, particularly in the United States, they are practically unheard of in France. The French do not even have their own term for the concept, instead referring to “le doggy bag”.

Cultural obstacles

A regional government survey conducted in 2014 found that while 75 per cent of French people are open to the idea of doggy bags, 70 per cent have never taken leftovers home with them.

For many, asking for a doggy bag at a high-end restaurant is seen as something of a faux pas, while some chefs also have a problem with the idea of their immaculately presented dishes being scraped off into a bag or box.

“In France, the obstacle is mostly cultural,” a government-commissioned report into food wastage released this year said. “The majority of diners don’t dare to ask for the leftovers of their meal, while the restaurateurs see it as a ‘degradation’ of their dishes.”

However, French authorities and the restaurant industry are seeking to change perceptions. An initiative launched in Paris in December saw 100 restaurants adopt the use of doggy bags.

Meanwhile, the hotel and restaurant industry union UMIH has been promoting the use of the term “le gourmet bag” to replace “le doggy bag” in an attempt to give the concept an image makeover in the eyes of French customers.

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