Food donations, steps forward in US legislation

Food donations, steps forward in US legislation

By: Gulia Pietrollini  15/03/2023

From: GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade)

Original article

From January 5, 2023, the US legislation on food donations relaunches the fight against food waste and support for the food security of the population in conditions of need. (1)

The bipartisan amendment Food Donation Improvement Act (FDIA) at Emerson Act (Good Samaritan Act) of 1996 further reduces the legal liability of food donation, reassuring organisations such as food banks and businesses. (2)

The new law also incentivises the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide clarity and updated guidelines on food donation.


The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2021 published a report on the environmental impact of food waste (3).

In the document it is estimated that food spills and waste in the United States generate 170 million metric tons of greenhouse gas (millions of MTCO2e) each year.

From the calculation methane emissions from food waste in landfills are excluded. In the United States, food waste takes up a serious proportion in landfills (24% of the total) and among incinerated materials (22%). Currently the USA is one of the main contributors of greenhouse gas emissions.

Limits of the Good Samaritan Law

The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act on Food Donation (42 USC 1791) (4) was designed to encourage donations and thereby reduce the food waste.

The industry was regulated by the establishment of civil and penal protections and responsibilities for donors, food recovery, and redistribution organisations for social solidarity purposes. Despite this, there are some gaps in the regulations, particularly concerning the issue of product expiration dates.

A study area of Food Waste Reduction Alliance argues that 44% of producers, 41% of restaurateurs and 25% of retailers say that they perceive the responsibilities imposed by US law as the main deterrent to food donations. (5)

US Food Donation Enhancement Act (FDIA)

The new law also extends liability protection to non-profit retailers (who sell food at a Good Samaritan price) and to individuals who donate food directly to individuals rather than through charities. (6)

The FDIA also eliminates some limits imposed by law on food labels. In current American legislation, the food destined for donation must in fact comply with prerequisites which not only concern the state of the food, but also unnecessary parameters such as the net weight of the product.

Major Changes to the Good Samaritan Bill Emerson Law

The Bill Emerson law is modified in the following points:

Definition of the term donate

The term “give” means to give without requiring any monetary value from the recipient, except that the term includes a donation by a nonprofit organisation to another nonprofit organisation, despite the donor organisation charging a nominal fee to the donor organisation, if no monetary value is requested from the receiver or the end user or a reduced Good Samaritan price is applied‘.

Reduced price of the Good Samaritan

‘For “Reduced Price of the Good Samaritan” means, in relation to the price of an apparently healthy food or an apparently suitable drug product, a price not exceeding the costs of management, administration and distribution of the apparently healthy food or the apparently suitable drug product’.

To the recipient the donation may be charged a reduced “Good Samaritan” price which does not exceed the costs of handling, administering and distributing the food or product.

Qualified direct donor

‘The term “qualified direct donor” means a retail grocer, wholesaler, agricultural producer, restaurant, caterer, school catering authority and higher education institution’.

The indication of possible donor subjects broadens the possibilities of relationships between donor and recipient.

Deresponsibility of the donor for direct donations

‘A direct donor shall not be subject to civil or criminal liability arising from the nature, age, packaging or condition of apparently wholesome food or apparently unfit foodstuffs which the qualified direct donor donates in good faith to an individual in need.’

The text of the FDIA also reports the reminder to the USDA:

The Department of Agriculture must issue regulations clarifying the quality and labelling standards that food items donated under the Bill Emerson Food Donation by the Good Samaritan Act must meet in order to qualify for liability protection.

The Department of Agriculture labelling guide

Within the scope of responsibility and food donation there is also talk of food expiration labelling. As a result of the FDIA, the USDA updated its Food Labelling Guide (7) for manufacturers and retailers encouraging them to change terminology in order to reduce food waste.

The USDA encourages you to replace the expiration date with the phrase ‘.‘. On the EU model, even in the USA lately there has been talk of revising the terms ‘best before‘ in ‘often good after‘. (8)

Future perspectives. The FIND Food Act

The FIND Food Act (Further Incentivising Nutritious Donations) (9) is another bill approved in March 2022 which is part of the actions put in place by the USA to encourage food donations. It aims to tackle climate change, hunger and economic opportunity by increasing incentives for the donation of safe and wholesome food.

The proposal by law provides for

  • expand the tax deduction provided for food donations also to food sold at reduced prices,
  • create a tax deduction to cover the transport costs of donated food,
  • offer an alternative tax credit for food donations from farmers. This category, in fact, operates on a low profit margin and is often reluctant to donate.


From an environmental point of view, the FDIA handles food waste properly but leaves a policy change pending.

The real engines of food security, in fact, are indicated in the increase in the national minimum wage and the increase in subsidies Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (10). However, the legislative framework adopted paves the way for a paradigm shift towards the reduction of food waste.

In the USA a system has been implemented for the measurement and mapping of food waste in the FSC blockchain named wasteless (11) specular to the homonymous project (12) Horizon Europe in which WIISE Benefit participates.

Gulia Pietrollini


(1) Press release. The White House. 5.1.23

(2) Dario Dongo and Andrea Adelmo Della Penna. Redistribution and donation of surplus food, the ABCGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 11.11.22

See also Dario Dongo. Food waste, CE guidelinesGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 21.10.17

(3) EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). From Farm to Kitchen: The Environmental Impacts of US Food Waste 11.21

(4) Congress.Gov. Public Law 110–247 110th Congress.

(5) Analysis of us food waste among food manufacturers, retailers, and restaurantsFood Waste Reduction Alliance 2016. 

(6) Congress.Gov.Text – S.3281 – 117th Congress (2021-2022): Food Donation Improvement Act of 2021 | Library of Congress

(7) USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture). Food Product Dating

(8) Dario Dongo. ‘Best before … often good after’. Changing labels to reduce food waste? GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 11.3.23

(9) Congress.Gov. HR7317 – FIND Food Act of 2022. HR7317 – 117th Congress (2021-2022): FIND Food Act of 2022 | | Library of Congress

(10) USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture). Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

(11) Wasteless.

(12) Dario Dongo and Andrea Adelmo Della Penna. wasteless, EU research project on circular economy e blockchainGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 5.9.22

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