WE write to express our concern at the suggestion that the Scottish Government should legislate to force supermarkets to send their unsaleable food to charity ("Calls for Scotland to follow France's food plan", The Herald May 28).

While this proposal might seem like a logical solution to two problems - the rising numbers of people in Scotland seeking help from food banks to feed themselves and their families, and, reducing the volume of food sent to landfill each year - we argue this a regressive, not progressive suggestion, and not one that is consistent with the Scottish Government's aims of creating a fairer and healthier nation.

Many food retailers, large and small, already donate unsold food to charitable food banks, and have been supporting the amazing and compassionate response, demonstrated by people and communities up and down the land these last years, to something that has been described as a public health crisis by a range of UK health professionals and academics. However, sending even more supermarket food waste to food banks will not solve the growing problem of food poverty in this country.

Similar sorts of legislation, that diverted agricultural and food industry waste from landfill in North America 30 years ago, played a large role in helping the food bank industry into existence there. This has allowed successive governments in Canada and the US, since then, to look the other way regarding the root causes of food poverty, and normalise the idea that charity should take care of feeding poor people.

In February this year, the leaders of Edinburgh and Glasgow city councils published a joint statement on food poverty in which they argued that food waste is not an effective or socially just solution to food poverty, and that food poverty itself is a human rights issue.

Food banks reliant on donations from supermarkets and the general public cannot sustainably feed the increasing numbers of people facing financial hardship in this country. Nor, in a society which prides itself on progressive values of social justice, should they be expected to. The Scottish Government commissioned research on emergency food aid, published by the Poverty Alliance and launched by Alex Neil MSP, earlier this year.

This study found that people working in food banks in Scotland are deeply concerned about the increasing pressures put on them, and believed that the state was failing in its responsibility to provide an adequate social security net.

The idea that Scotland should follow France in legislating to require supermarkets to donate waste food to charities, threatens to undermine this position and further entrench food banks in Scotland's welfare system. Furthermore, providing an even easier route for highly variable and unpredictable quantities of nearly out-of-date food, which is often of questionable nutritional quality, to an increasingly large number of vulnerable people, some of whom are likely to be affected by underlying ill-health; will add further health problems to those we (and they) are already dealing with in Scotland.

Mary Anne MacLeod, PhD Candidate, University of Glasgow; Elizabeth Dowler, Professor of Public Health Policy, University of Warwick; Graham Riches, Professor Emeritus: University of British Columbia; Pete Ritchie, Executive Director, Nourish Scotland; Sue Laughlin, Co-Chair Politics of Health Group; Ewan Aitken, CEO Cyrenians; Flora Douglas, Lecturer of Public Health, Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, University of Aberdeen.