Belgian sandwich shop chain Panos has come under fire after photos of trash bins on the popular Meir shopping street Antwerp stuffed full of its bread and pastries were posted to Facebook on Sunday.
The pictures were taken by a passer-by on Sunday evening around closing time, and immediately drew a lot of criticism from people pointing out the paradox of this food waste in the context of the looming food shortages, price increases in supermarkets and sky-high energy costs, which are all causing a rise in poverty.
"It is very sad when you see this while there is so much poverty due to excessively high rent and energy prices. This is making me so angry," one comment reads.
"There is a bakery around the corner from where I live, and every day before closing time, there are some homeless or underprivileged people at the door because they know he gives away surplus."
In a reaction given on Flemish radio on Monday, Nele Van Malderen of Panos' parent company La Lorraine said that the company will discuss the photos with the branch manager.
"It is indeed not a pretty picture. Still, the quantities are very limited. In all our shops, the surplus is limited to 1.5% to 2% of what is sold in total," she said. "With a daily fresh product, it is never possible to predict exactly how much will be sold."
However, La Lorraine is also looking for solutions for its surplus: 80% of Panos shops in Belgian cities offer surpluses via Too Good To Go, an app that allows customers to buy unsold food surplus from restaurants and stores at the end of the day.
"We aim to get that to 100%. There are also structural collaborations with the Food Bank or other organisations in a lot of our bakeries," Van Malderen said.
"As a result of these photos, we have also been in contact with the local manager. We are going to see whether a good destination can be found for the surpluses."
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Meanwhile, former Panos employees also took to social media to state that the staff is not allowed to take any surplus home. Van Malderen confirmed their statements and explained that this is "a standard practice" that is also common in other bakeries, supermarkets and shops.
The Antwerp province Food Bank announced that it can collect surpluses, such as bread and pastries, from Panos. "A number of distribution centres affiliated to us collect bread from local bakers. That should also be possible for Panos," Fons Jespers of the Food Bank told Het Laatste Nieuws.
"The rules about food safety are not that difficult. Everything has to be correctly packed and may not be cut. Most distribution points know those rules and can help with that," he added.
On the Antwerpen-Mechelen-Turnhout Food Bank website, a publically accessible list of affiliated associations and companies.