The concept of the restaurant “doggy bag” has never been particularly entrenched in Spain. COVID changed all of that, however.
One of the positive consequences of the coronavirus pandemic (if it could be said that such a global tragedy has any positives) is an enhanced sensitivity about wasting food – and a significant boost in takeaway orders at restaurants and tapas bars.
Many foreign tourists have had long-standing traditions back home about saving leftover restaurant food “for the dog” but some might have felt a little self-conscious requesting take-home bags in a society where such a culture has not been so ingrained.
Of course, Spanish restaurants have always offered the service to those who ask, especially in areas popular with tourists, but now – with the introduction of a national “Law Against Food Waste” – the tupperware container is set to become as ubiquitous as cutlery and dinner plates.
Last year Murcia restaurateurs were among the first in Spain to formally introduce measures to reduce food waste. Thousands of takeaway containers and bags were distributed among restaurants and bars throughout the region in an initiative promoted by the Regional Federation of Hospitality and Tourism Entrepreneurs (HoyTú).
At the time, federation president Jesús Jiménez noted that, if customers had leftover food after eating in their establishments, it was normal for them to take it home, and it was beholden on restaurant bar owners to encourage them to do so.
Now, the national government has adopted its own measures as part of a more comprehensive implementation of the 2023 Common Agricultural Policy.
The council of ministers has just agreed to submit to parliament a draft bill on the prevention of food loss and waste. This is the first regulation on the matter to be enacted in Spain, with the aim of preventing unconsumed food from being discarded and encouraging better use of otherwise wasted food.
Noting that 20 per cent of food is wasted due to inefficiencies in the food chain, minister for agriculture, fisheries and food Luis Planas said that, in order to reduce this percentage, it will become mandatory for all elements of the chain (with the exception of shops of less than 1,300 square metres) to adopt a specific plan. The law also imposes other obligations, such as catering establishments having to make unconsumed food available for customers to take away on request.
In addition, the text regulates donations to food banks, establishing that only food that is within the preferential consumption period – i.e. within the period during which “all its characteristics are effectively in force” – can be donated.