New FDA Rules Permit Food Donations from Retail Establishments

A hamburger sitting in a red and white disposable containerCounty governments can take advantage of a clarification of federal rules to help address hunger and food insecurity in their communities, while combatting food waste.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) recently released 2022 Food Code helps reduce barriers to food donations by clarifying for the first time that food donations from retail food establishments are acceptable as long as proper food safety practices are followed. This addition in the Food Code is part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. The National Strategy provides a roadmap of actions the federal government will take to end hunger and reduce diet-related diseases by 2030 – all while reducing disparities. The National Strategy was released in conjunction with the first White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health in over 50 years, hosted by President Biden on September 28, 2022.

The FDA encourages donation of food that is stored, prepared, packaged, displayed, and labeled according to applicable provisions contained in the Food Code or local, state and federal statutes, regulations, and ordinances. One-third of all food in the U.S. goes uneaten. Wasted food is the single largest category of material placed in municipal landfills and represents nourishment that could have helped feed families in need.  While the Food Code never prohibited such donation practices, this update will make it more explicitly clear that such practices are acceptable.

The Conference for Food ProtectionExternal Link Disclaimer is the main forum for all retail stakeholder groups, including government, industry, consumers, and academia, to contribute to updating the Food Code, which represents the FDA’s best advice for a uniform system of provisions that address the safety and protection of food offered at retail and in food service. While it is a model code that is not required, it has been widely adopted by state, local, tribal and territorial agencies that regulate more than one million restaurants, retail food stores, vending operations and food service operations in schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and childcare centers.

The FDA works with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on reducing food loss and waste.  The FDA has worked with the Conference for Food Protection on its Comprehensive Guidance for Food Recovery Programs and is planning educational materials for retailers on safely donating food.

Members of the FDA’s National Retail Food Team are available to assist regulatory officials, educators, and the industry in their efforts to adopt, implement, and understand the provisions of the FDA Food Code and the Retail Program Standards.

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