This post on LinkedIn Pulse purports a tweet from Mr. Ratan Tata - a well-known Indian of diverse interests.

The tweet references an undated incident at an unnamed restaurant in Hamburg, Germany. The tweet narrates a 50 Euro Fine by "man in uniform from a Social Security organisation" imposed for non-consumption of victuals ordered at a restaurant.

The referenced tweet content also appears to form the basis for atleast one article here, here - and various blogs.

I do not deny wastage of food is, at the least, poor practice. But that is digressing.

A google search with the keywords "Germany waste food fine" indicated apparently some restaurants in Switzerland, and the UK apparently levy a penalty on customers who leave food on their plate. Yet a charge levied by a restaurant is a very different proposition from a penalty levied by a Social Service Organisation; the latter would IMHO IANAL mandate a law. Further I'm sceptical that the same penalty was not enforced by the restaurant itself if it was a law.

Is there a law in Germany (or Was - since the earliest reference I find dates to 2011) to penalise a customer at a restaurant for leaving food/drink unconsumed?

  • 1
    Maybe it is supposed to be funny.
    – fdb
    Commented Apr 10, 2016 at 14:53
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    It is so blatantly wrong that it might be a feeble attempt at satire: ("man in uniform from a Social Security organisation").
    – fdb
    Commented Apr 10, 2016 at 16:32
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    I spent some time looking around the internet in German for such a law. I could find nothing. I don't think this law exists.
    – gesell
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 17:58
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    Maybe it was a scheme (by a shady restaurant operator) to bilk some clueless rich foreigners out of some money. Get your brother-in-law to come in wearing a phony uniform...
    – GEdgar
    Commented Apr 12, 2016 at 1:44
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    There is, however, a campaign of the ministry for agriculture and nutrition to reduce the waste of food which includes the recommendation to make it easier/more normal to take home leftover food from your plate in the restaurant . Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 21:24

2 Answers 2


According to available (free) internet sources, there is neither a federal nor a state that has been passed during the last 10 years, which contains the search keys "Lebensmittel" and "Verschwendung". While it is theoretically possible that an older law exists, it should by now be general knowledge. That is a good indication that the story is not based on any existing regulation.

It also contains a glaring inconsistency: Social security officials in Germany do not wear uniforms. The "Gewerbeaufsicht" (business inspectorate), e.g., as a civilian agency, stopped wearing uniforms in 1873. 1 This agency could conceivably be responsible for controlling that restaurants comply with the fictional law, but it would not be considered a social security organisations. Social security in Germany includes health, unemployment and retirement insurances, as well as a few more specific topics such as maternity and work accidents,2 but none of these organisations employ uniformed officials.

There are a few restaurants that do impose (small) fines on customers who leave food on their plates. This is rare, though, and usually only happens in combination with all-you-can-eat buffets. The reason is that food disposal is strictly regulated and therefore rather expensive.3

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    Makes sense since you only paid for "all you can eat" but took a lot more food than you paid for :-)
    – gnasher729
    Commented Dec 1, 2016 at 22:00
  • Chose this as the answer because of the attempt to reference the keywords "food", and "wastage" in (what I assume) is the Ministry of Justice/Welfare
    – Everyone
    Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 15:59
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    "stopped wearing uniforms in 1873" That made me laugh because Germany only became a country in 1871. So throughout 98.7% of its history, they've not worn uniforms.
    – Lan
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 19:39
  • @Lan I was a bit sceptic about your comment and google tells me Germany has been a country from 962AD, where did you get the 1871...? I bet you that in the 1500's they already had their own language culture etc. for a while and most likely borders too... I'd call that a country
    – EpicKip
    Commented Oct 20, 2017 at 13:53
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    @EpicKip I think Charles V would beg to differ that Germany was a country during his tenure. German "unification" happened in 1871. Even after that unification, Austria didn't join the union until 1938 temporarily. In other words, until 1871, "Germany" roughly referred to a collection of little kingdoms and the like. (The Holy Roman Empire did exist ~962 but the country we call Germany today was a successor to Prussia, not the HRE.)
    – Lan
    Commented Oct 20, 2017 at 14:04

I was able to locate a few newspaper articles about restaurants that charge extra if you do not finish your plate. This seems to be a local thing (the articles are all about restaurants in the Ruhr Valley region); personally I have never heard of this.

One of the articles quotes a spokesman of Dehoga (Deutscher Hotel und Gaststättenverband, a sort of umbrella organisation for hotels and restaurants) who points out this this is legal only for all-you-can-eat style restaurants, since usually portion sizes are determined by the restaurant, not the patron.

I'm also a bit unclear about the "social security" organisation, since the relevant public authorities would either be the "Lebensmittelaufsicht" (for food quality) or the "Gewerbeaufsicht" (to monitor business related stuff), neither of which wear uniforms. While we do have a strong welfare state social security does not monitor restaurants ("social security" in Germany comprises mainly health care, the state run pension funds and the like).

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