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Good Samaritan Act

The Good Samaritan Act

Protecting food donors from liability since 1996.


  • Spread the Word!
  • Tweet about the Good Samaritan Act to show your followers that its okay to donate food instead of letting it go to waste.

In 1996 President Clinton passed the Good Samaritan Food Act to encourage companies and organizations to donate healthy food that would otherwise go to waste. This law:

  • Protects businesses from liability when they donate to a non-profit organization

  • Protects businesses from civil and criminal liability should the product donated in good faith later cause harm to the recipient

  • Standardizes donor liability exposure. No need to investigate liability laws in each state

  • 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.”

In 1996, Congress passed the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. The act encourages food donation by limiting liability of businesses and nonprofits which donate and distribute food to those in need. The legislation allows that any person or business that donates, or any non-profit that receives food and groceries, “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 [or non-profit receives] in good faith… for ultimate distribution to needy individuals.”

According to the Legal Guide to the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, by the University of Arkansas School of Law, “…a thorough search of filings and reported decisions did not turn up a single case that involved food donation-related liability or any attempts to get around the protections offered by the Bill Emerson Act. Additionally, several leading food recovery experts and anti-hunger advocates report that they are unaware of any such actual or threatened lawsuits.” This is great news for restaurants, grocery stores, caterers, farmers markets and other food purveyors who worry about the legality of donating leftover or unsold food! Click here for more information on The Good Samaritan Act and how it encourages and protects food donation or to learn how you and your business can donate excess food.