By Dan Papineau // MIRA Director, Government Relations
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Federal Good Samaritan law. Passed in 1996 and officially titled “The Federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act” this legislation was signed into law by former President Bill Clinton to encourage donation of food and grocery products to non-profit organizations for distribution to individuals in need. This law:
- Protects you from liability when you donate to a non-profit organization;
- Protects you from civil and criminal liability should the product donated in good faith later cause harm to the recipient;
- Standardizes donor liability exposure. You or your legal counsel do not need to investigate liability laws in 50 states; and
- 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.”
It is because of this law that retailers are able to donate product without worrying about being liable for unsuspected flaws in the products they donate. This is an important protection that many business owners are not aware of.
Food Retailers understand that customers demand quality. If a canned good has a slight dent or produce starts to look anything less than absolutely perfect customers will not buy it. When a product reaches its expiration date it is highly unlikely the product will leave the shelf and a retailer could suffer the consequences of appearing to sell expired food. Many know however, that product that has reached its printed expiration date has not met its absolute demise. The product could be wholesome for several more weeks.
Food retailers may want to consider donating this product to a food pantry or other charitable organization that feeds the hungry. Organizations like Feeding America make this option incredibly easy. A business owner could see savings in storage and inventory, transportation, and dumping costs. Additionally, there could be an opportunity to lower your tax bill by counting this charitable donation against your tax liability. One intangible benefit that is important to remember is that donating product will enhance your public image and increases employee and customer satisfaction.
So when considering what to do with products customers start skipping over, remember that they can be donated and rest easy, since you are immune from liability your act of kindness will not come to haunt you later.
For more information on food donations or help in creating a food donation plan feel free to call the office at 1-800-666-6233. I will be happy to discuss the many options that are available to you.