Xavier Denamur, the owner of five small restaurants in Paris, is a man on a crusade. It began with the 2009 decrease in value-added tax from 21.6 percent to 5.5 percent on restaurant meals, which he says favored big chain restaurants without helping the small independents as promised. Going beyond that issue, he blames French government policies and a lack of transparency in the food industry for the increasing industrialization of food preparation and delivery, the degradation of food quality in France, and increasing obesity and public health costs. One of his campaigns calls for legislation that would create a label informing restaurant customers whether the food is prepared from fresh ingredients on-site or is factory-made or frozen.
Denamur has formed an association called La République de la Malbouffe (The Republic of Bad Food) and has just released a documentary film of the same name, directed by Jacques Goldstein. Unfortunately, the film lacks focus and does not get his laudable message across clearly. Shown only in a handful of Paris cinemas, it is also available on DVD (with issue no. 17 of Rue89 magazine, for €5). Denamur continues to hold debates and chase politicians, hoping to get them to listen to his call for transparency. “My goal is to get citizens interested in politics again,” he says, by encouraging them to vote and write to their representatives.