PA House approves bill shielding food donations from civil and criminal liability

11 July 2024- Legislation to expand immunity from civil and criminal liability for donating food past its labeled, manufacturer-issued date unanimously passed the House Monday, according to Rep. David Rowe (R-Snyder/Union/Mifflin/Juniata), the bill’s sponsor. Rowe worked on this initiative in a prior legislative session before taking it up again with Rep. Tarik Khan (D-Philadelphia).

Date labels on food are established by the manufacturer to indicate the best use-by date for freshness, but many potential food donors misinterpret these labels as “expiration dates” or indicators of food safety. In Pennsylvania, the donation of food to nonprofit food recovery organizations is protected from limited civil and criminal liability through the Donated Food Limited Liability Act and a provision in Title 42. However, the donation of food past its recommended label code is not explicitly protected from liability.

The clarification in House Bill 2286 would correct the current misconception that donating “past-date” food will place the donor outside of liability protection. It would also support changes made to the current federal Food Code to encourage donation of food that is safe to eat.

“We have a food waste problem in Pennsylvania and across the nation. So much food that is safe for consumption, but past date, is thrown away when it could safely be donated to help those in need,” said Rowe. “Fear of liability is holding Pennsylvania residents and businesses back from making these needed donations. By expanding current immunity from civil and criminal liability that explicitly applies to the donation of food, we can bridge a critical gap between our food surplus and the over 1.2 million Pennsylvanians who lack food security. Of those individuals, an estimated 325,000 are children.

“I am proud to once again advocate for this legislation and am pleased the bill received unanimous support by my colleagues in the House,” continued Rowe. “The bill next goes to the Senate for its consideration, where I’m hopeful it will pass and soon be signed into law for the benefit of Pennsylvanians in need.”