DAVIS, Calif. - Most grocery store chains are involved in hunger-relief charities for leftover food, but fear of liability has many tossing away food instead of donating it, the Contra Costa Times reports.
California supermarkets waste a lot of food because of that concern, the California Watch and the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at University of Southern California discovered when they looked at the issue. Major food retailers and restaurant trash fruits, meats and vegetables instead of giving the leftovers to distribution centers for the needy because of fear that someone could become severely ill from consuming the food. Supermarket, farm and restaurant waste contributes heavily to a projected 6 million tons of edible food that California trashes.
The investigation found that, despite federal and state laws that give businesses and individuals liability protection if recipients fall ill from food donations, supermarkets continue to be very wary of donating leftovers. The only exemptions to the decade-old laws would be gross negligence or intentional misconduct, meaning a plaintiff would need to show the retailer or restaurant intentionally attempted to harm someone with unsafe food.
"Many of them [grocers] don€™t understand," said Arlene Mercer, founder of Food Finders, which gathers leftovers from restaurants and grocery stores for food pantries. "We try to educate them that they are protected by the Good Samaritan laws and our insurance and that neither have ever been challenged."
To be safe, Safeway€™s Vons donates nonperishable items. "Safeway does not donate items that are not fit for consumption or could be unfit for consumption when they reach the final recipient," said spokeswoman Teena Massingill. "Once the items are out of our control, we cannot guarantee that they will be kept under the specified temperatures."
Albertsons developed a formal perishable food recovery program called Fresh Rescue. "Stores have been doing it on their own for a few years now, but we wanted to find a way to pull it all together," said Lilia Rodriguez, public affairs manager for Albertsons. "It€™s eggs, cheese, milk, fruits €" and it€™s those products that are really hard for food banks to get a hold of. Nonperishables are usually what they get."