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Food Safety & Liability

Ensuring Food Safety

All participants in FeedHV must maintain the safety of the food and health of its consumers at all stages. This Food Safety Guide summarizes the importance and parameters of ensuring safety for food donors, volunteer transporters and recipient organizations.

Food donors are protected from criminal and civil liability under the 1996 Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, which was created to encourage companies and organizations to donate healthy food that would otherwise go to waste. The law protects individuals, corporations, partnerships, organizations, associations, governmental entities, wholesalers, retailers, restaurateurs, caterers, farmers, harvesters and nonprofit agencies, even though the food may not be “readily marketable due to appearance, age, freshness, grade, size, surplus or other conditions.” This Act also protects individuals and organizations involved in field harvesting, perishable produce rescue or salvage, perishable and prepared food rescue and nonperishable processed food collection. In short, the Act:

  • Protects donors from liability when they donate to a nonprofit organization;

  • Protects donors from civil and criminal liability should the product donated in good faith later cause harm to the recipient;

  • Standardizes donor liability exposure so donors and their legal counselors do not need to investigate liability laws in 50 states;

  • Provides donors and qualified recipients of recovered food robust protection against liability associated with their food donations except in cases of gross negligence or intentional misconduct. Gross negligence is defined as “voluntary and conscious conduct by a person with knowledge (at the time of conduct) that the conduct is likely to be harmful to the health or well-being of another person”;

  • Protects nonprofit organizations from civil or criminal liability arising from the nature, age, packaging, or condition of apparently wholesome food or an apparently fit grocery product that the nonprofit organization received as a donation.


Additionally, New York State Law enacted in 1981, Article 4‐D, Section 71‐2 71‐Z provides liability protection for canned, perishable food or farm products distributed free of charge.


In January 2023 President Biden signed into law the Food Donation Improvement Act (FDIA). The bipartisan bill builds on the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act which, since 1996, has encouraged the donation of surplus food by providing liability protection. The 2023 bill:

  • Expands liability protections to food donations to include not only food given for free to the end recipient but also food sold at a reduced price to cover the cost of handling the products;

  • Expands liability protections to include not only donations made via a nonprofit intermediary, but also donations made by a retail grocer, wholesaler, agricultural producer, restaurant, caterer, school food authority, and institution of higher education that donate food directly to individuals.

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