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Protecting Our Food Donors From Liability
Donations of “apparently wholesome food” donated in “good faith” to the Sophia Elizabeth Foundation are protected by the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. The Sophia Elizabeth Foundation has nonprofit status, and that protects you from liability.
Millions of pound of food and groceries go to waste each year. To encourage companies and organizations to donate healthy food that would otherwise go to waste, they are protected from criminal and civil liability under the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act.
The Federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act
On October 1, 1996, President Clinton signed this act to encourage donation of food and grocery products to non-profit organizations for distribution to individuals in need. This law:
Protects you from liability when you donate to a non-profit organization;
Protects you from civil and criminal liability should the product donated in good faith later cause harm to the recipient;
Standardizes donor liability exposure. You or your legal counsel 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 new 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 text of the bill itself follows:
The Bill Emerson Food Donation Act
One Hundred Fourth Congress of the United States of America
At the Second Session
Begun and held at the City of Washington on Wednesday, the third day of January, one thousand nine hundred and ninety-six.
(a) Short title
This section may be cited as the “Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act”.(b) Definitions As used in this section:
(1) Apparently fit grocery product
The term “apparently fit grocery product” means a grocery product that meets all quality and labeling standards imposed by Federal, State, and local laws and regulations even though the product may not be readily marketable due to appearance, age, freshness, grade, size, surplus, or other conditions.
(2) Apparently wholesome food
The term “apparently wholesome food” means food that meets all quality and labeling standards imposed by Federal, State, and local laws and regulations even though the food may not be readily marketable due to appearance, age, freshness, grade, size, surplus, or other conditions.
The term “donate” means to give without requiring anything of monetary value from the recipient, except that the term shall include giving by a nonprofit organization to another nonprofit organization, notwithstanding that the donor organization has charged a nominal fee to the donee organization, if the ultimate recipient or user is not required to give anything of monetary value.
The term “food” means any raw, cooked, processed, or prepared edible substance, ice, beverage, or ingredient used or intended for use in whole or in part for human consumption.
The term “gleaner” means a person who harvests for free distribution to the needy, or for donation to a nonprofit organization for ultimate distribution to the needy, an agricultural crop that has been donated by the owner.
(6) Grocery product
The term “grocery product” means a nonfood grocery product, including a disposable paper or plastic product, household cleaning product, laundry detergent, cleaning product, or miscellaneous household item.
(7) Gross negligence
The term “gross negligence” means voluntary and conscious conduct (including a failure to act) by a person who, at the time of the conduct, knew that the conduct was likely to be harmful to the health or well-being of another person.
(8) Intentional misconduct
The term “intentional misconduct” means conduct by a person with knowledge (at the time of the conduct) that the conduct is harmful to the health or well-being of another person.(9) Nonprofit organization The term “nonprofit organization” means an incorporated or unincorporated entity that—
is operating for religious, charitable, or educational purposes; and
does not provide net earnings to, or operate in any other manner that inures to the benefit of, any officer, employee, or shareholder of the entity.
The term “person” means an individual, corporation, partnership, organization, association, or governmental entity, including a retail grocer, wholesaler, hotel, motel, manufacturer, restaurant, caterer, farmer, and nonprofit food distributor or hospital. In the case of a corporation, partnership, organization, association, or governmental entity, the term includes an officer, director, partner, deacon, trustee, council member, or other elected or appointed individual responsible for the governance of the entity.(c) Liability for damages from donated food and grocery products
(1) Liability of person or gleaner
A person or gleaner shall not be subject to civil or criminal liability arising from the nature, age, packaging, or condition of apparently wholesome food or an apparently fit grocery product that the person or gleaner donates in good faith to a nonprofit organization for ultimate distribution to needy individuals.
(2) Liability of nonprofit organization
A nonprofit organization shall not be subject to 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 in good faith from a person or gleaner for ultimate distribution to needy individuals.
Paragraphs (1) and (2) shall not apply to an injury to or death of an ultimate user or recipient of the food or grocery product that results from an act or omission of the person, gleaner, or nonprofit organization, as applicable, constituting gross negligence or intentional misconduct.
(d) Collection or gleaning of donations
A person who allows the collection or gleaning of donations on property owned or occupied by the person by gleaners, or paid or unpaid representatives of a nonprofit organization, for ultimate distribution to needy individuals shall not be subject to civil or criminal liability that arises due to the injury or death of the gleaner or representative, except that this paragraph shall not apply to an injury or death that results from an act or omission of the person constituting gross negligence or intentional misconduct.(e) Partial compliance If some or all of the donated food and grocery products do not meet all quality and labeling standards imposed by Federal, State, and local laws and regulations, the person or gleaner who donates the food and grocery products shall not be subject to civil or criminal liability in accordance with this section if the nonprofit organization that receives the donated food or grocery products—
is informed by the donor of the distressed or defective condition of the donated food or grocery products;
agrees to recondition the donated food or grocery products to comply with all the quality and labeling standards prior to distribution; and
is knowledgeable of the standards to properly recondition the donated food or grocery product.
This section shall not be construed to create any liability. Nothing in this section shall be construed to supercede State or local health regulations.(Pub. L. 89–642, § 22, formerly Pub. L. 101–610, title IV, § 402, Nov. 16, 1990, 104 Stat. 3183; renumbered § 22 and amended Pub. L. 104–210, § 1(a)(2), (b), Oct. 1, 1996, 110 Stat. 3011, 3012.)