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Resources & Toolkit

If you have any questions about the programs or materials below or would like to submit a resource, contact us.

Understanding Food Labels

Use by. Sell by. Best if used by.

Date labels are confusing and can lead to needlessly throwing away good food. With the exception of infant formula, they pertain to product quality, not food safety. Learning the difference between "sell-by", "use-by" and "best-by" dates is a great first step toward storing smart. Use this guide as a quick reference:

  • A sell-by date tells the store how long to display the product for sale. You should buy the product before the date expires, but you can still store it at home for some time beyond that date as long as safe storage procedures are followed.
  • A best if used-by (or before) date is recommended for the best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
  • A use-by date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. This date has been set by the product manufacturer.
  • Closed or coded dates are packing numbers for use by the manufacturer.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture provides more information on food dating.

 

Food Donation Liability Guidance

The Federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act was passed to encourage companies and organizations to donate food and groceries to non-profits for distribution to individuals in need. The legislation:

  • Protects donors from liability when donating to a non-profit organization.
  • Protects donors from civil and criminal liability should the product donated in good faith later cause harm to the recipient.
  • Standardizes donor liability exposure; donors and their legal counsel do not need to investigate liability laws in 50 states.
  • 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."

Harvard Food Law and Policy Center and University of Arkansas also have additional information on food donation legislation. Information on this legislation as well as possible tax deductions for businesses is provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In addition, South Carolina law provides liability protection for food donors through S.C. Code of Laws §§ 15-74-10 et seq. According to the law, "the donor, in good faith, of distressed food apparently fit for human consumption, to a bona fide charitable or nonprofit organization or food bank or prepared and perishable food program for free distribution, is not subject to criminal penalty or civil damages arising from the condition of the food or the nature or condition of the land entered, unless an injury is caused by gross negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct of the donor."

National Campaigns and Helpful Links:

Stakeholder Toolkit

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