Standardizing local and state health department regulations for safe handling and donation of food through federal policy
State and local health departments across the country have food safety laws that may prohibit or hamper the donation of food that is still safe to eat. These regulations generally add an additional burden on donors and recipients, who must navigate the differences between states and cities.
The FDA Food Code is not law but a model code, allowing states and local governments to adopt all or just portions of it. Once states determine which portions to adopt, it becomes part of state law and is open to interpretation by the state health agents who are responsible for enforcement.
"Home rule" states may also allow county and local units of government to establish different regulations. For example, Massachusetts state law requires that past-date food be separated and labeled, with no additional stipulations barring these items from being sold or donated. However, Boston health department regulations strictly prohibit the donation of past-dated foods despite the lack of evidence that this poses an additional risk to food safety, according to our interview with Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic.
Standardizing local and state health department laws through federal legislation to create a common policy will enable businesses nationwide to more easily track food regulations and understand their donation options with fewer liability concerns.
In Massachusetts, RecyclingWorks worked with a multi-stakeholder group of state and local health officials, food rescue organizations, and businesses with food donation programs to develop Food Donation Guidance documents to help clarify local policies for food donation.
Educating potential food donors on donation liability laws
Expanding federal tax benefits for food donations to all businesses and simplifying donation reporting for tax deductions
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