The Last Food Mile, Food Wastage Along the Supply Chain

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Waste occurs at the farm, the processing plant, the store, and the home. In December, Nicole Civita presented at a conference hosted by the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.  The conference brought together experts from national and international, academic and industrial, public and private sectors, to discuss:

  • Where food losses occur along the food supply chain, why, and how much
  • What food waste reduction measures work effectively, lessons learned and barriers encountered
  • What policies and interventions are critically needed for moving forward

Professor Civita’s abstract “Legal Issues, Food Labeling, and Policies Related to Food Recovery” is included below. The Post Conference Follow-Up site, an excellent resource, includes links to additional conference materials.

Food recovery – diverting unused and unsalable food from the waste stream and donating it for higher and better uses – is a straightforward, easily implemented, and elegant way to address the fundamentally irreconcilable problems of food waste and food insecurity. Unfortunately, many food businesses hesitate to engage in food recovery because they erroneously believe it to be fraught with legal, practical, and reputational risks. Fortunately, there are robust, easy to understand, and consistent legal protections designed to facilitate food recovery across the United States. The federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act exempts those who make good faith donations of food and grocery products to non-profit organizations that feed the hungry from liability for negligently caused harm arising from the consumption of properly donated food. With a bit of education about this law, as well as some basic planning and employee training, food businesses can safely, sustainably, and responsibly rescue wholesome food from its shameful fate in the landfill, recapture precious resources, and potentially access valuable federal and state tax benefits, all while helping to feed hungry people in their communities. To remain within the protections of the Bill Emerson Act, however, donors and recipients must comply with all applicable federal, state and local standards pertaining to food quality and labeling. Because the process of identifying specific standards that may pertain to recovered food can be daunting, the development and dissemination of legal informational resources is essential. For example, understanding the legal significance of food product dating, navigating local food codes, being aware of permitting requirements or prohibitions of feeding food waste to animals are all essential to the formation of mutually beneficial, collaborative relationships among food donors, recipients and regulators. For these reasons, the Food Recovery Project endeavors to both educate stakeholders on the legal dimensions of food recovery and advocate for strategic policy reforms that will further promote the widespread adoption of low-risk, high benefit food recovery programs.


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