Food Safety Regulations and Guidence for Food Donations: A Fifty-State Survey of State Practices


Food Safety Regulations and Guidance for Food Donation: A 50-State Survey of State Practices analyzes the current landscape of state-level regulations and guidance on the topic of food safety for food donation.

Forty percent of food in the United States goes to waste. Meanwhile, over 42 million Americans suffer from food insecurity. Donation of safe, wholesome surplus food to those in need can play an important role in both reducing food waste and addressing food security. However, uncertainty about the proper food safety procedures to follow when donating food creates confusion among businesses, food recovery organizations, and health inspectors. This confusion can deter potential food donors from donating, leading to unnecessary food waste.

To learn more about this barrier to donation, FLPC conducted a  survey of the top officials regulating food safety at food service and retail food establishments in every state in the country. The survey was conducted by FLPC on behalf of, and with the support of, the Food Safety for Donations Working Group, a coalition of people and organizations committed to promoting an understanding of safe food donation practices in order to reduce food waste and increase food recovery. This survey provides the first comprehensive data on this topic at a national level.

The survey results confirmed that confusion about food safety procedures for food donation stems at least in part from a lack of comprehensive and consistent regulations or guidance on this topic at the state level. The survey found that most states do not have any regulations or guidance that address food safety for food donation. Even in the states that do have regulations or guidelines, the existing laws often pertain to a very narrow topic. These results were not surprising because all fifty states have adopted some version of the FDA Food Code, a model food safety code and reference document released by the FDA, which itself does not address food safety for donations.

The survey found that a lack of staffing and resources was a common barrier states faced in developing regulations and guidance on this topic. The vast majority of survey respondents believed model language would be a helpful resource to support states in creating their own guidance on food safety for food donations. All but two respondents said model language would be helpful in supporting state efforts to develop guidance.

This report builds on FLPC’s previous work analyzing opportunities to reduce food waste and increase food recovery. In March 2017, FLPC and the Natural Resources Defense Council released Don’t Waste, Donate, a report outlining policy opportunities for the federal government to better support food donation. That report included recommendations for improving the dissemination of information about food safety for food donations.  Food Safety Regulations and Guidance for Food Donation: A 50-State Survey of State Practices provides data that reaffirms the need for clarity around food safety for food donation and helps identify avenues for supporting state efforts to implement regulations and guidance on this topic.

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