Laws Protect Food Donors
At ExtraFood.org, food safety is our #1 priority. And the U.S. and Califonia governments provide added security for our food donors: federal and state laws that protect food donors from liability when donating food to nonprofit organizations.
Federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act
The Federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act was passed by the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives and was signed into law by President Clinton in 1996.
As noted by Feeding America, our nation’s network of 200 food banks, the law:
- Protects food donors from liability when donating to a non-profit organization;
- Protects food donors from civil and criminal liability should the product donated in good faith later cause harm to the recipient;
- Standardizes donor liability exposure. Food donors and their legal counsels do not need to investigate liability laws in 50 states; and
- Sets a floor of “gross negligence” or intentional misconduct for persons who donate grocery products. According to the law, 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.”
The law was enacted to encourage organizations to donate healthy food — food that would otherwise go to waste — to non-profit organizations that serve individuals in need.
You can find a Legal Guide to the Act here. The Guide's authors conclude, after an exhaustive search of U.S. case law, that no lawsuit related to donated food has ever been filed in U.S. history.
California Good Samaritan Food Donation Act
On October 10, 2017, Governor Brown signed California's Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, AB1219, into law. Following on to, and strengthening, the protections provided by the federal Act (above), among AB 1219's provisions are:
- Explicitly stating that donated food which has exceeded the sell-by date is subject to liability protection.
- Providing liability protection for donations made directly to end-users.
- Providing liability protection to gleaners.
The bill text is here.
California Health and Safety Code
The California Health and Safety Code, Sections 114432-114434, states the following:
- Section 114432: Any food facility may donate food to a food bank or to any other nonprofit charitable organization for distribution to persons free of charge.
- Section 114433: No food facility that donates food as permitted by Section 114432 shall be subject to civil or criminal liability or penalty for violation of any laws, regulations, or ordinances regulating the labeling or packaging of the donated product or, with respect to any other laws, regulations, or ordinances, for a violation occurring after the time of the donation.
- Section 114434: The immunities provided in Section 114433 and by Section 1714.25 of the Civil Code are in addition to any other immunities provided by law, including those provided by Chapter 5 (commencing with Section 58501) of Part 1 of Division 21 of the Food and Agricultural Code.
California Civil Code
Section 1714.25 of the California Civil Code contains the following:
- Except for injury resulting from negligence or a willful act in the preparation or handling of donated food, no food facility that donates any food that is fit for human consumption at the time it was donated to a nonprofit charitable organization or a food bank shall be liable for any damage or injury resulting from the consumption of the donated food. The immunity from civil liability provided by this subdivision applies regardless of compliance with any laws, regulations, or ordinances regulating the packaging or labeling of food, and regardless of compliance with any laws, regulations, or ordinances regulating the storage or handling of the food by the donee after the donation of the food.
California Food and Agricultural Code
As referred to in Section 114434 of the Health and Safety Code above, Chapter 5 of Part 1 of Division 21 of the California Food and Agricultural Code contains the following:
- Section 58505: Except for any injury resulting from gross negligence or willful act, no county or agency of a county established pursuant to this chapter and no person who donates any agricultural product* shall be liable for any injury, including, but not limited to, injury resulting from the ingesting of such agricultural product, as a result of any act, or the omission of any act, in connection with donating any product pursuant to this chapter.
* Note that “agricultural product” is defined as: “any fowl, animal, vegetable, or other stuff, product, or article which is customary food, or which is proper for food for human beings.”