Donor Liability

Some food businesses hesitate to donate food out of fear that, should the recipient become ill from the food, the donor could be held responsible. In 1988, the California legislature passed the “Russell Bill” which releases the donor from liability. (It can be found in sections 27900-27910 of the California Food and Agriculture code.)

Below is a description of the bill: “Effective January 1, 1989, The California Legislature passed a bill that specifically authorizes any food facility (this definition includes restaurants and other retailers of prepared food) to donate food to a non-profit charitable organization or to a food bank and specifically limits liability for injuries.

The new law provides that unless there has been negligence or a deliberately bad act during preparation, if donated food is fit for human consumption at the time it is donated, the person donating it will not be liable for any injury resulting from its consumption. This is true whether or not laws regulating packaging, labeling, storage or handling are complied with by the group receiving the donation. Prior law gave this protection to wholesale food processors, but now, restaurants and other retail facilities are protected too.”

It should be noted that a similar “Model Good Samaritan Food Donation Act” was passed by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States and was signed into law in 1996. The Federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act protects any good-faith donor of apparently wholesome food to a non-profit organization from civil or criminal liability, except for gross negligence or willful misconduct.

Food donated to Peninsula Food Runners is transported as quickly as possible to various food programs and shelters to ensure freshness and appeal. Fear of liability need not prevent donating to Peninsula Food Runners.

Additional Education on Liability, please visit these comprehensive sites.

Internal Revenue Code 170(e)(3) provides enhanced tax deductions to businesses to encourage donations of fit and wholesome food to qualified nonprofit organizations serving the poor and needy.  Qualified business taxpayers can deduct the cost to produce the food and half the difference between the cost and full fair market value of the donated food.