Edible Food Recovery Tips & Tricks

Ideas to keep in mind for a successful food recovery program

Once you have connected with a food recovery organization or service (List of Food Recovery Organizations and Services) and signed a contract, it’s time to make sure your business is ready to participate. Learning to safely handle and package edible food for recovery is the best way to support your program. Let’s get started!

    For industry-specific one-sheets about food waste prevention, safe food recovery, and SB 1383 compliance click here.

    • Please continue to follow CalCode for all food in your possession, including food intended to be recovered

    • Determine kitchen requirements

      • Safe packaging

      • Storage

      • Labeling 

        • Description

        • Date

        • Weight or count

    • Regularly train staff on best practices



    To encourage companies to donate surplus food, the government instituted the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act to protect donors from criminal and civil liability:

    • Protects donors from liability when donating to a hunger relief organization

    • Protects donors from civil and criminal liability if the product donated in good faith later causes harm to the recipient

    • Standardizes donor liability exposure so donors do not need to investigate liability laws 

    Food recovery organizations and services will have their own rules and norms about date labels; details about this may be included in your contract with the organization. Businesses are responsible for providing food within appropriate timeframes, so recipient organizations have plenty of time to safely distribute it.

    In California, there is no restriction on the sale or donation of food items past the date on any date label except for infant formula, baby food, and Reduced Oxygen Packaging (ROP) products. Your food recovery organization or service will let you know their policies on expired product. Most date labels normally seen on food products, such as “sell by,” “use by”, or “best if used by” do not indicate food safety, but instead indicate freshness or quality. Regardless of the date on the label, it is important that the donated food is apparently wholesome. 

    If you are a commercial kitchen donating prepared foods, check with your partner recovery organization to see what kind of packaging they prefer.

    • Decide between food-safe single-use containers or reusable containers. This decision will need to be made in conjunction with your food recovery organization or service, but the same metal containers used to store food in your kitchen can often be transported to a nonprofit for distribution, washed, and returned to use again. The benefits of utilizing reusables are many:

      • Cost savings are significant, as packaging for food donation can be expensive

      • Reusing containers is more environmentally friendly

      • It can be easier than repackaging food into disposables


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