Countries Around the World Can Implement Better Food Safety and Food Waste Deterrence Policies to Address Hunger and Climate Change

Research from the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic and The Global FoodBanking Network pinpoints best practices on the six major legal issue areas impacting food waste and food donation.

June 7, 2023: Today, The Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) and The Global FoodBanking Network (GFN) released two new issue briefs highlighting best practices and policy recommendations to clarify food safety rules for donation and improve food waste deterrence. These two briefs complement a series of five in-depth resources that FLPC and GFN have now produced to provide countries around the world with insight into the major legal issue areas impacting food donation. The series, part of The Global Food Donation Policy Atlas, is intended to help global leaders act to reduce food waste, address food insecurity, and mitigate climate change.

About one-third, or 1.3 billion tons, of the world’s food is lost or wasted every year. This food often ends up in landfills where it emits greenhouse gasses including the potent gas methane,contributing to climate change. Yet, as many as 828 million people across the globe are hungry and more than 3 billion people are unable to afford a healthy diet. The policy recommendations in the two new issue briefs aim to address these issues, augment food system resilience, aid in food recovery, and mitigate the environmental and financial costs of food loss.

Promoting Food Donation: Food Safety for Donation Law and Policy” focuses on a key element of food donation: ensuring food safety. Clear and comprehensive food safety policies tailored to donated food protects people from spoiled or contaminated donations and encourages donors who may not donate right now due to misconceptions or fear regarding government oversight or penalties. The new research identifies three policy opportunities designed to strengthen food safety for food donation:

  • Encourage safe donation of food and protect recipients from risk through a donation-specific food safety law or policy or by amending existing food safety law or policy to include a donation-specific provision.
  • Allow donation of food that cannot be offered for sale but is safe for human consumption by permitting donation of unsaleable food with labeling or permitting flaws that do not affect food safety or suitability for human consumption, and by explicitly allowing donation of food past a quality-based date label.
  • Ensure that businesses, food safety officials, and consumers fully understand the implications of food safety law or policy by designating a department or ministry to develop and disseminate guidance on food safety requirements for donation.

Food Donation Requirements & Food Waste Deterrence Policies” focuses on food waste deterrence laws and policies, policies that motivate food donation by financially deterring food businesses from sending surplus food to a landfill. In the brief, FLPC and GFN highlight four key recommendations:

  • Ensure that food suitable for donation is not sent to landfills by:
    • enacting a food donation requirement for actors along the food supply chain;
    • complementing the donation requirement with a national law or policy that restricts the amount of organic waste disposed in landfills or requires generators to engage in organic waste diversion;
    • and/or adopting a local or regional policy requiring the donation of surplus food still suitable for human consumption.
  • Invest in infrastructure  (like transportation and storage) that can improve food recovery and support waste deterrence laws and policies. In addition, offer technical assistance to help food businesses comply.

“Policies that encourage food donation and prevent food waste ensure that safe and nutritious food reaches people who are hungry, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and help build a more sustainable and equitable food system,” said Emily Broad Leib, clinical professor of law at Harvard Law School and faculty director of FLPC. “Our two new issue briefs share widely applicable and proven policy options from around the globe that can help jumpstart action to address these complex but manageable problems.”

“Food safety, donation requirements, and waste deterrence laws hold immense significance for food banks,” said Lisa Moon, president and CEO of GFN. “Not only do these laws allow for and encourage greater food recovery, which help alleviate hunger and reduce food loss and waste, but they also ensure we safeguard the health and dignity of the people and communities that food banks serve.”

The other three issue briefs in FLPC and GFN’s series on food donation best practices focus on date labels, liability protections, and tax incentives and barriers. As part of The Global Food Donation Policy Atlas, supported by Walmart Foundation, the series builds on the Atlas project’s goal of identifying and advancing laws and policies that support food recovery and donation. The Atlas project also features country-specific reports currently available for 22 countries, as well as an interactive atlas tool that allows users to compare policies between countries participating in the project. All issue briefs, the interactive map, and Legal Guides, Policy Recommendations, and Executive Summaries for each country are available at

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