Assumption of risk


I worked at a food pantry earlier today unloading a van full of donations from a local supermarket in a neighboring town. I was wondering when it came to distributing food, in case someone gets sick do soup kitchens make people they serve sign something that says that the individual assumes all risk, since the food is rejected by supermarkets?


Is the food actually expired or is it just a case of the supermarket had an overstock that wasn’t selling, so they donated it?

Food pantries generally do not hand out expired food or other “unsafe” food. Overstocks usually have not expired and are just being sent over in order to free up shelf space for something that might sell better.

By the way - not to get into the legal weeds, but not all states recognize a doctrine of “assumption of the risk”.


Yes they do, the food pantry where I live, most if not all the food is past its expiration date. its being donated because it legally cannot be served on store shelves.


You’ll have to make the distinction between perishable foods and non perishable. Say a can of green bean and a bag of fresh green beans. Canned food stays good (safe to eat) for a very long time, long past it’s expiration date. It is safe to consume as long as the can is not defective and the seals are intact.

With fresh food, such as fruit & vegetables, they need to be consumed more quickly. I was a volunteer food pantry manager for a couple of years. Most of the perishable foods donated are beyond selling in the store but still have a few days before they rot. When I managed the food pantry, I had the volunteers go through everything before it being put on shelves and bad food was thrown out.


If someone does get sick I would think that most food pantries have safeties in place so they dont get sued.


I’ve been told by the people involved with my local food pantries that they pitch the expired stuff. This is to get rid of the donation by folks who clean out their cupboard and give them a 3 year old can of something. Maybe it differs based on the food pantry involved.


Our St Vincent dePaul does not accept expired items and regularly purges the shelves.
Stale baked goods are considered ok. Most of our needy don’t really want those items anyway. They’re looking for staples: dry beans, cereal, rice, canned good, frozen food, butter.


I’d bet the requirements might vary from state to state.

My brother used to be in charge of a local food pantry. He had to take a class on food safety and they actually specified how long beyond the expiration date or “best by” date specific types of food were still good for, and he was the one to make sure that all the food was still good. So just because an item reached its printed expiration date didn’t necessarily mean the food was bad. Your mileage may vary, though.


They are under VERY strict rules and when we volunteered we were “trained” of the dos and donts because inspectors could stop by at any time and if not doing everything right they could be shut down very quickly.


The Federal Good Samaritan Law protects the food pantry and the folks who donate


There is no available public record of anyone in the United States being sued ― or having to pay damages ― because of harms related to donated food, according to Nicole Civita, a professor and director of the Food Recovery Project with the University of Arkansas School of Law and assistant director of the Rian Fried Center for Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems at Sterling College.

Passed in 1996, the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act protects restaurants from civil and criminal liability should a recipient get ill or hurt as a result of consumed donated food. Donors are only culpable in cases of gross negligence or intentional misconduct.

““…Lawyers are not interested in sticking it to people who make sure the needy do not starve.”

“As long as no one has acted in a totally reckless or deliberately destructive manner, lawyers are not interested in sticking it to people who make sure the needy do not starve,” Civita wrote in “Food Recovery, Donation, and the Law in Food Waste Across the Supply Chain: A Global Perspective on a US Problem.” “What is more, the very people who depend on donated food – the potential plaintiffs – hesitate to bite the hands that feed them.”


My understanding is that as long as food is not being sold, there is no legal requirement that the food being served in a location be “fresh”. The fact is, expiration dates, and sell-by dates, are in most cases very conservative, and have more to do with how the food tastes than how healthy it is to eat. In other words, it’s largely marketing. For food pantries and soup kitchens, without “expired” food a lot of them would be unable to provide for the poor and homeless.


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